The three high-ranking officials at the center of the Papua New Guinea diplomatic fund scandal resigned yesterday after prosecutors raided their homes and offices in the search for clues to what happened to the missing US$30 million.
Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) approved the resignations of Vice Premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) and Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) at 2pm, Executive Yuan Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) said. Deputy Minister of National Defense Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) announced his resignation at 3:30pm.
Huang apologized to the nation for the blunder but maintained his innocence as he announced his resignation.
“I had planned to step down immediately after the scandal broke, but I felt obligated to assist the prosecutors in the probe. Last night, I decided it was the right time to step down after I turned over all the evidence to the authorities,” Huang said.
He said that throughout his political career his main goal had been to safeguard Taiwan’s national interests and dignity.
Huang’s resignation came as a surprise because up until Monday he had insisted “he could not step down because he had important matters to take care of.”
Since the scandal broke last Thursday, Huang had said that he had stopped the fraud from moving forward because he had refused to sign a communique and that he played no part in helping the missing broker.
He said he believed the judicial system would clear his name and those of his colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) who have been named as possible players in the scandal.
Huang is the third foreign minister to step down during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration. The others resigned after Taipei lost diplomatic allies to China.
The 50-year-old Huang was the youngest person in Taiwan’s history to serve as foreign minister. During his term, Taiwan lost allies Costa Rica and Malawi to Beijing, but gained the recognition of St. Lucia.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Tzu-pao (楊子葆) will serve as the acting minister until May 19, the day before the new government takes office.
Chiou, meanwhile, told reporters at the Government Information Office (GIO) that he had resigned “to facilitate the judicial investigation in the hope that it can clear up the matter as soon as possible and prove my innocence.”
Chiou had previously refused to step down, saying that it would be hypocritical because the Cabinet is set to resign next Wednesday. His about-face came after he was listed as a witness on Monday.
“As a political appointee, it’s inappropriate for me to stay in my job when listed as a defendant and not a witness, even though it is still meaningless to resign when there are only 10 more days [left under the DPP administration],” he said.
The diplomatic scandal snowballed when sources revealed on Monday that Chiou and Huang were among a group of seven individuals who may have received kickbacks ranging from between US$400,000 to US$2 million from the funds earmarked for establishing relations with Papua New Guinea in 2006.
“I have confidence that I am innocent because I didn’t receive a cent. I will fully cooperate with the investigation,” Chiou said.
He reiterated that he would shoulder full responsibility for the matter, politically and judicially, because he had “introduced Ching to Huang and I didn’t check Ching’s security background beforehand.”