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Tue, Feb 13, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Investigators find Lafayette-related bank accounts

AFP , TAIPEI

Taiwanese investigators probing the country's worst military scandal have found suspect money laundering records after raiding the Taipei branch of a French bank here last month, it was reported yesterday.

The bank, Societe Generale, last week turned over some of its bank account records to investigators, the local media said.

"Indeed among the suspects there were some former Taiwan government and political party officials," the reports said. "The investigators are checking the capital movement of the suspect accounts" running from 1987 through 1990.

Joel Bucher, a former head of the Taipei branch, last month testified to a French court that a huge amount of kickbacks from Thomson-CSF (now renamed Thales) had gone into the pockets of former ranking Taiwanese government officials.

Bucher insisted that of the FF2.5 billion (US$350 million) in kickbacks, FF800 million had been paid to former top Taiwan government officials and generals by the arms company while the rest went to some French officials.

Bucher, who worked in Taipei from 1986 to 1992, said he was shocked to learn that the price tag for the six French frigates had been inflated to FF16 billion, up from the original FF11 billion.

Local media said the investigators were tight-lipped over the suspect list. "The evidence seized by the investigators match Bucher's testimony."

The kickbacks scandal did not surface until 1993 when the body of naval captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓) was found. It was believed Yin was murdered as he was ready to blow the whistle on the affair.

Yin had drawn up a critical report on the purchase of the frigates.

So far 28 people, including 13 military officers and 15 arms brokers, have been jailed in Taiwan for bribery and leaking military secrets and are serving terms of between eight months and life. No one has yet been charged for Yin's murder.

Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏), an adviser to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), said last year that former French foreign minister Roland Dumas had told him the French side had "lists of people from Taipei and Beijing who received kickbacks from the arms sale."

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