A US court’s recent acceptance of a court ruling from Singapore opens the way for the Republic of China (ROC) government to file a suit for the return of misappropriated ROC government funds in a US court.
In 2006, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材) and Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖) US$29.8 million as part of an attempt to forge diplomatic ties with Papua New Guinea (PNG), with US$200,000 of the total designated as spending money for the men.
The funds were wired to a Singaporean bank account jointly opened by Wu and Ching. However, it was discovered just as then-president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) second term was coming to an end that the deal with Papua New Guinea had not gone through and that Wu and Ching had kept the funds for themselves.
The ministry filed a civil suit in Singapore and the Singapore High Court ruled that Taiwan was entitled to the sum of US$29.8 million plus interest earned on the account between the date of deposit and the date of the verdict.
Wu was arrested in Taiwan on charges of forgery and making false claims related to the Papua New Guinea venture and started serving a 30-month sentence in May 2009.
Ching fled to the US with most of the money and has since reportedly transferred the funds to his children.
The ministry filed the suit with the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, last year, asking it to acknowledge the ruling of the Singaporean court. It also asked the US court to void Ching’s application for the transfer of ownership of a piece of land in the US.
The Superior Court of California ruled last month that it would accept the ruling of the Singaporean court, opening the way for the ministry to file a suit against Ching in a US court for the return of the embezzled funds.
According to court papers from the The Superior Court of California, at the time of the Singaporean verdict, Ching was liable to return US$18 million to the ROC government, but the total amount with interest now exceeds US$20 million.
The government is also able to track money through legal channels in order to ensure all the funds related to the case are recovered.