A close aide of former minister of foreign affairs James Huang (黃志芳) was questioned by prosecutors yesterday as a witness in a dollar-diplomacy case in which Taiwan was defrauded of US$30 million.
Chang Chiang-sheng (張強生), a counselor at the minister’s office, declined to comment as he left the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday afternoon, except to say that he “did not take any money.”
Prosecutors said Huang ordered Chang in September 2006 to wire US$30 million to a joint account in Singapore held by Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖) and Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材), two of the brokers alleged to have been involved in the deal.
But that December, after the government discovered that Papua New Guinea was not sincere in wanting to establish ties, the government decided to abandon the deal.
Huang sent Chang to Singapore to discuss the return of the money with Ching and Wu.
Prosecutors said that Chang and Ching, who were in Taiwan at the time, went to Singapore together on Dec. 22, where they met Wu.
Chang discussed the return of the money with the two men, but Ching left Singapore the day after the meeting with Wu, prosecutors said.
Chang failed to get the pair to transfer the money back to Taipei, prosecutors said.
Ching agreed to meet with the Taiwanese official in Singapore in December 2006 to withdraw the money from the bank account, a Singaporean newspaper reported yesterday, citing testimony by Taiwan’s representative to Singapore at the city-state’s High Court.
On the day of the meeting, however, Ching said he was flying to Shanghai to visit his sick daughter, and Taiwan has since lost contact with him, the newspaper said.
The paper said that Ching had made off with the funds.
Wu was ordered detained by the Taipei District Court on Tuesday because he was considered a key figure in the case.
Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) on Tuesday approved the resignations of Huang and vice premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁). Deputy minister of national defense Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) also resigned on Tuesday for introducing Ching to Chiou.
Wu ‘s attorney, Hsu Ching-hsing (徐景星), told a press conference yesterday afternoon that Wu had told him that Chang and Ching had asked Wu to transfer US$9.8 million from Ching and Wu’s joint account to Wu’s personal account and then give the amount to Chang.
At the time, Chang said the money was for Huang, Hsu quoted Wu as saying.
After that, Ching and Chang asked Wu to wire the remaining US$20 million back to the bank account in Taiwan where the amount originated, Hsu quoted Wu as saying, adding that Chin had mentioned at the time that the US$20 million was for Ko and Chiou.
The ministry last night issued a statement saying that Wu’s comments contained many contradictions.
Chiou denied yesterday that he has been in touch with Ching.
The Apple Daily yesterday said that text messages found in Ko’s cellphone showed that Ko and Ching kept in touch via text messages in February and March.
It also quoted unnamed prosecutors as saying that Ching told Ko in one of the messages that he, under orders of his “boss,” had given the “thing” to Wu.
The report said prosecutors assumed that the “thing” referred to a kickback and the “boss” referred to Chiou. Based on this prosecutors presumed that Chiou was the mastermind of the diplomatic fraud and he decided who received how much kickback.