Former National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) was detained yesterday on suspicion of embezzling US$500,000 in funds earmarked for a diplomatic project.
Huang Chun-min (黃俊明), spokesman for the Taipei District Court, said: “Chiou’s alleged crime could carry a sentence of more than five years, so there is a need to detain him.”
Chiou was summoned in August by the Supreme Prosecutor Office’s Special Investigation Panel (SIP) to help prosecutors in their investigations into the former first family’s money-laundering case. During their investigations, prosecutors said they discovered evidence that Chiou embezzled the money in 2004, when he served as secretary-general of the NSC.
Prosecutors said that Chiou asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for the money, saying it was for the “An-ya Project,” which channeled financial aid to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies. Chiou was paid US$500,000 in traveler’s checks, several of which were later found to have been cashed at foreign casinos, even though the project concerned had been completed.
Prosecutors decided to charge Chiou with corruption and detained him late on Thursday night, a decision that was approved by the Taipei District Court yesterday morning.
Chiou was also under investigation in a separate case that saw US$29.8 million go missing in a bungled 2006 attempt to forge diplomatic ties with Papua New Guinea.
The prosecutors searched six locations yesterday before they questioned Chiou and said that the search had yielded evidence.
The SIP said that they were investigating the possibility that others were involved and would summon more witnesses as part of the ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, MOFA spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) yesterday said the ministry would fully cooperate with prosecutors but was not obliged to divulge any details of an ongoing investigation.
Chen said he believed that this was not an isolated case and that more diplomatic scandals involving the past administration would be revealed.
“In the past, many diplomatic dealings were conducted outside proper protocol, which means MOFA has no way of verifying if the funds in question were channeled to the appropriate recipient,” he said, vowing that under the new administration, MOFA would return to the official procedure in its dealings with foreign governments.
“Why would we [the administration] need brokers when we have already said we will not seek new allies?” Henry Chen said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was concerned prosecutors might have abused their power in detaining Chiou.
“I am concerned that judicial rights have been violated in the case and politics is involved in the investigation,” Tsai said.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the speedy indictment of DPP Tainan City Councilor Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) and the detention of Chiou were obviously the government’s moves to please China and Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), who will arrive in Taipei on Monday.
Wang was indicted on suspicion of inciting an “assault” on ARATS Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing (張銘清) last Tuesday.
The two cases constituted political persecution, Ker said.
DPP caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) said that Chiou was devoted to Taiwan’s democratization and independence movements and that he believed Chiou was not corrupt.