Sun, Jul 25, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Errors put former ministers' new jobs at risk

DIPLOMATIC FRACAS Although a lower-ranking official repeatedly contravened policy, two ranking diplomats' jobs are on the line as the premier demands answers

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' improper handling of the controversial passport authorization involving fugitive murder suspect Andrew Wang (汪傳浦) might cost two former foreign ministers their jobs.

Following the latest incident, which was disclosed by the foreign ministry late Friday, Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂) tendered his resignation. Tien was the nation's representative to Britain and a former foreign minister.

Former foreign minister Eugene Chien's (簡又新) new appointment might be delayed or even canceled because of the incident. Chien was expected to take over the top representative's post to Brussels and the EU at the end of next month.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun indignantly ordered Tien and other people involved in the incident to return home and offer thorough explanations of the matter. He also requested disciplinary measures be meted out to those accountable for the incident.

Although Yu yesterday told reporters in Taichung County that he didn't expect to reach a final decision on the matter until he hears Tien's side of the story, it is widely believed that the premier might not find him culpable in the error.

Tien was the foreign minister when the representative office in Geneva issued a notarization of power of attorney to Wang in July 2001. He was the representative to the UK and Chien was the foreign minister when the representative office in London issued another notarization of power of attorney to Wang in February of last year.

The paper was to notarize the appointment of a lawyer to act on Wang's behalf when the court in Taiwan handles a libel lawsuit he filed against national policy adviser Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏) and a China Times reporter.

The government, however, believed that Wang used the documents to try to unfreeze money being held in Swiss banks.

Following the two incidents, the Control Yuan ordered corrective measures against the foreign ministry in March last year over the improper handling of the matter.

While Chien, who denied any friendship with Wang, and Tien were both absolved of responsibility in the incident, the official in the UK office who issued the documents to Wang, Chang Jia-hua (張家華), received admonitions.

In a bid to prevent the same mistake from happening again, the government later prepared a list of Wang's family members and sent it to the UK representative office.

On March 16 this year, Wang's wife, Yeh Hsiu-chen (葉秀貞), applied for a new passport, claiming that she had lost her passport. The representative office in the UK issued Yeh a new passport the next day.

On May 27, the representative office issued Yeh six authorization papers allowing real estate trans-fers. While two of Yeh's real estate sales had already been completed, the other four deals were successfully blocked.

Displeased with the repeated mistakes and fearing that there might be a conspiracy involved, the Control Yuan pledged to investigate the matter.

Speculation abounds that Chang might have been instructed by someone higher up to contravene official policy on purpose, considering that Yeh picked two highly sensitive times to file the applications to dodge administrative scrutiny and media attention.

It was close to the presidential election when Yeh applied for her new passport on March 16. Yeh received six real estate authorization documents one week after the presidential inauguration.

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