Chinese agent does ‘disappearing’ act

INTO THIN AIR::Despite notification by US authorities that Bill Moo was being deported to Taiwan, and a press release to that effect, no one seems to know where, or who, he is

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

Mon, Aug 22, 2011 - Page 1

The controversy over the fate of Ko-suen “Bill” Moo (慕可舜), a Taiwanese businessman who was arrested by US federal agents in Miami in 2005 for attempting to ship sensitive military technology to China, continued to mount yesterday following his deportation from the US to Taiwan last week, with officials saying they have no idea about his whereabouts.

Moo, who was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in a US federal prison in 2005 for seeking to export defense articles — including an F110-GE-129 afterburning turbofan engine for the F-16 — to China, landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Wednesday, accompanied by two US officers.

Reports at the time of Moo’s arrest said he had been working with a French middleman named Maurice Serge Voros, who remains at large. Prior to focusing on the F-16 engine manufactured by General Electric, the pair had also sought to acquire UH-60 Blackhawk engines for China. Other items on Moo’s shopping list — all destined for China — were the AGM-129 cruise missile and AIM-120 air-to-air missile.

In a press release on Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency said that upon arrival in Taiwan, Moo was turned over to local authorities. It added that Enforcement and Removal officers had coordinated the removal with the Homeland Security Investigations Office of International Affairs and local authorities in Taiwan.

However, judicial authorities on Friday said they had no information about Moo’s arrival.

In a follow-up by the Taipei Times, Ministry of National Defense spokesman David Lo (羅紹和) said yesterday that the ministry also was “not aware” of Moo’s deportation.

Lo’s comment came despite confirmation to the Taipei Times by a senior officer from the National Immigration Agency’s Border Affairs Corps at the Taoyuan airport on Saturday that the American Institute in Taiwan had informed Taiwanese authorities prior to Moo’s deportation of his imminent arrival.

Border Affairs Corps sent officers to wait for Moo at the gate, the source said, but after the flight was apparently delayed, the officers eventually moved to another gate.

“For some reason, we did not meet Moo at the airport,” he said. “We’ve lost track [of him].”

Asked why Moo had apparently slipped away, the officer said the agency “might not have jurisdiction” and that as far as he knew, Moo had never been convicted of any crimes in Taiwan.

The South Korea-born Moo, who was an international sales consultant for US defense firm Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-16, and other US defense companies in Taiwan prior to his arrest in the US, was involved in the Anyu 4 air defense program in Taiwan and was the principal sales agent on the sensitive Po Sheng “Broad Victory” C4ISR project.

Reports at the time said Moo relied on his “extensive connections” — primarily with the Republic of China air force — to consolidate his role within Lockheed Martin’s business unit.

During the decade he worked as a defense sales agent in Taiwan, Moo had reportedly gained an impressive reputation within the arms industry, with reports referring to him as “the air force’s most critical arms broker.”

Insiders saw Moo as a member of the so-called “gang of four” within the air force, which reportedly included three senior Taiwanese generals who dictated many of the weapons procurement efforts.

One of the alleged members of the “gang of four” was former minister of national defense Chen Chao-ming (陳肇敏), sources have told the Taipei Times. The other two allegedly included a former air force deputy commander in chief and Aerospace Industrial Development Corp (漢翔航空) chairman, as well as a former electronic warfare section chief at the ministry’s Communication Electronics and Information Bureau.

A source also said the then--country manager at Lockheed Martin, Gus Sorensen, reportedly tried without success to convince senior management at the company to fire Moo, pointing to possible early doubts about his reliability.

Lo said the ministry had learned about the case after Moo was arrested in the US and that it had completed an internal investigation years ago, which found that no ministry or military officials were involved in the case.

“The investigation found that the case posed no threat to Taiwan’s national security,” he said.

The spokesman said the ministry could not comment further or speculate simply because Moo was the principal sales agent on the Po Sheng project, adding that Moo’s conspiracy “has nothing to do with the ministry.”

Weighing in on the possible repercussions of Moo’s return to Taiwan, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Herman Shuai (帥化民), a member of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, said he had never heard of Moo.

However, he said the case was unlikely to have a negative impact on Taiwan’s efforts to secure the acquisition of F-16C/D aircraft and upgrades for its aging F-16A/B fleet from the US.

Given the sensitivity of the case and the exposure of Moo as a Chinese agent, Shuai said, Moo would “no longer be a valuable asset for anyone.”

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said it was “a disgrace” that both the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Justice were unaware of Moo’s return to Taiwan.

Tsai urged the government to immediately launch a thorough investigation to assess whether Taiwanese officials were involved and national security had been sabotaged.

Moo’s deportation coincides with Taiwan’s efforts to acquire the F-16C/Ds from the US. Unless Taiwan takes appropriate measures to reassure the US on Moo, the case could have a negative impact on the bid, Tsai said.

Another item sought by Taipei whose sale could be compromised if Washington loses confidence in Taiwan’s ability to protect against transfer of sensitive military technology to China, defense experts say, is the electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a key component in plans to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16A/Bs.

The US is expected to announce its final decision on the F-16 sale to Taiwan on Oct. 1.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHRIS WANG