The Taipei District Court yesterday found former National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) and former deputy foreign minister Michael Kau (高英茂) not guilty of embezzling diplomatic funds during former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) term in office.
The court ruled that Chiou and Kau did not defraud the government of US$500,000 and that the fund was used to ensure that the nation’s designation in an international organization would not be denigrated.
Chiou was indicted on corruption charges for allegedly failing to execute a so-called “An-ya” diplomatic promotion project after asking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to allocate US$500,000 to the project in 2005.
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID) had indicted Kau on a similar corruption charge because he gave the ministry a directive to issue traveler’s checks for the amount.
After lengthy investigations, the district court said in its verdict that all of the traveler’s checks in question were cashed abroad on dates when Chiou was in Taiwan.
According to the verdict, then-NSC deputy secretary-general Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) did go abroad on the date the traveler’s checks were cashed, but the receipts were signed by the representatives of the beneficiary. Therefore, the court concluded that the traveler’s checks had been delivered to the beneficiary.
Saying that Taiwan’s name in the international organization in question had not been downgraded, the court ruled that the funds were indeed used for the country’s secret diplomatic efforts.
The SID yesterday said prosecutors would consider appealing the case to the Supreme Court after it received the ruling in writing.
Neither Chiou nor Kau were in court for the ruling. Chiou’s lawyer Wellington Koo (顧立雄) said since the case involved secret diplomatic funding, the trial was held behind closed doors.
“Therefore, the public could not know the details of the trial procedures ... but court investigations confirmed that all of the funds in question had been cashed abroad and received by the target beneficiary,” Koo said.
On Chiou’s response to the ruling, Koo said Chiou was an openminded man who could take life’s tribulations in stride.
Chiou was taken into custody on Oct. 31, 2008, and detained for 50 days during the investigation. Koo said Chiou now runs a small fruit and vegetable farm in southern Taiwan.
“He has long laughed off the detention episode,” Koo said.
Commenting on the ruling, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said that after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office, his administration had been practicing political persecution through the judicial system by going after pan-green camp politicians.
Now that the court has acquitted the DPP politicians of their charges, it proves that the prosecutors abused their power, Chuang said.
Chuang said that in a democratic country, prosecutors, who are authorized by the state to fight crime, should not show bias when pursuing cases.
Chuang said the public could see that the judiciary only pursues DPP politicians and turns a blind eye to cases involving the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which is why the judiciary’s independence has been questioned since Ma assumed office. Chuang said the DPP would continue to promote judicial human rights as well as judicial independence.