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Mon, Feb 12, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Hsieh Tsung-min keeps on pursuing the Lafayette case

After meeting former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in November in search of the truth behind the Lafayette frigate purchase scandal and navy captain Yin Ching-feng's murder, Hsieh Tsung-min, Taiwan's national policy adviser to the president and a consultant to the Ministry of Justice, visited Paris again last month during Dumas' corruption trial. Hsieh spoke to 'Taipei Times' staff reporter Jou Ying-cheng about his view of the case and expectations of its future development

By Jou Ying-cheng  /  STAFF REPORTER

Hsieh Tsung-min visited France again last month to find answers in the Lafayette frigate purchase scandal and navy captain Yin Ching-feng's murder case.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: What was the purpose of your recent visit to Paris outside the court where Dumas was being tried and what did you do on the visit?

Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏): I went there to call on the French side to deepen investigation of the scandal and to advocate judicial cooperation between Taiwan and France.

The French prosecutors have prosecuted Roland Dumas, his ex-mistress Christine Deviers-Joncour, and Alfred Sirven [former senior executive of the Elf Aquitaine oil company]. But it is not fair if the investigation only ends with the Elf case, without going further to Thomson CSF [the company that sold the Lafayette frigates, now called Thales].

The Nouvel Observateur magazine last month reported that French police had found three file-holders of material related to Yin's murder at the place of a former legal consultant of Thomson. It is said the judges have been warned about touching the materials and do not dare to do so.

On the other hand, Taiwan's prosecution has issued an order of arrest for Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), Thomson CSF's agent based in Singapore, on murder charges. Taiwan's China Times Weekly also reported last October that Yin was killed by Thomson's Far East representative Jean-Claude Albessard at Wang's residence in Taipei.

Therefore, I brought a photocopy of Wang's arrest order to show to the French media outside the court and stressed that such important information must not be left uninvestigated. Several French major TV channels covered my act.

TT: As we know, according to the original plan, the visit to France was supposed to be by legislators, as you advocated. The plan was dropped, however. And it was reported you were unhappy about what you said was opposition from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Hsieh: Some people in Taiwan, I don't want to be specific but they're not only from the MOFA, said we should not touch this issue [the French corruption trial]. They are worried the move would hamper relations with France.

But I don't think so. When there are big problems in business deals they must be solved in a legal way, not just be neglected.

Some in Taiwan claimed that this issue is too sensitive [for diplomacy]. The case is a big scandal not only in France but also in Taiwan. It is not that we are just finding fault with them [the French]. The two countries that suffered in this scandal must cooperate to find the truth. In my experience the French side is friendly and the point is whether we are positively seeking cooperation.

TT: But France did refuse the visa application of Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) in December for his private tour. It also expressed concern over Prosecutor Hung Wei-hua's (洪威華) visit to France in October. (Hung is the Taiwan High Court officiating prosecutor in the Lafayette case).

Hsieh: Yes. But legislators are different. A visit by our legislators to France is an expression of friendship. Such a fact-finding tour by legislators is not to be pre-examined by the MOFA. Instead, what the MOFA should do is to negotiate with the French government and to help enable the visit -- but it didn't do so.

I made my visit to Paris again out of consideration that on such an important occasion [the Dumas trial] there should be at least someone from Taiwan to show concern. But I still think that currently legislators are the most appropriate people to propose judicial cooperation. I believe that when there are crises there are opportunities. If we can establish judicial cooperation with France using the Lafayette case as an opportunity, then it could be also beneficial for future legal cases.

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