Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Former premier Hau to be questioned over ships

KICKBACKS Hau Pei-tsun will be summoned as a witness in the Lafayette frigate scandal and he may be joined by other prominent figures in the near future

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) will be summoned for questioning this week as a witness in the kickback and murder scandal involving Taiwan's 1991 purchase of Lafayette-class frigates, a prosecutor said yesterday.

"Prosecutors have also proposed the subpoena of various policy makers involved in the Lafayette frigate procurement including former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), former premier Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) and others," the prosecutor, a member of a special prosecutorial panel investigating the high-profile scandal, told the Taipei Times yesterday on condition of anonymity.

Those former officials are all potential witness in the arms procurement scandal, the prosecutor said.

The special prosecutorial panel last week subpoenaed former deputy chief of the general staff Hsia Tien (夏甸) and a lawyer C.V. Chen (陳長文), whose law firm was in charge of the Lafayette arms contract, as witnesses.

The prosecutor said the government's original plan in 1988 was to purchase South Korean-made frigates. But after Hsia, who accompanied Hau on a trip to France in 1989, filed a cable during their France visit on Hau's orders asking the navy to suspend the plan to procure the South Korean-made frigates, the government decided in 1990 to purchase the French-made Lafayette frigates instead.

The prosecutor said that Hsia's cable is the key to the change of heart over the navy's warship procurement.

He said Chen was questioned as a witness because prosecutors wanted to know how much he knows about the Lafayette procurement process since he and his firm were in charge of the arms bill contract on behalf of the military.

The prosecutor refused to say what Hsia and Chen had said during questioning.

He added that Siew was a witness because the then minister of economic affairs visited France in 1990 on Hau's orders to facilitate the Lafayette frigate purchase.

A special prosecutorial panel in 2001 indicted retired vice admiral Lei Hsueh-ming (雷學明), former head of the fleet control office, and other officials on corruption charges, for producing false performance data on Lafayette frigates and inflating their price.

The suit is still pending at the Taipei District Court.

The special prosecutorial panel has scrutinized a large number of Swiss court files believed to be related to the kickback scandal.

The files were released by the Swiss government in November last year.

They include information about 46 bank accounts in the name of Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), the key suspect in the kickback scandal, his three sons and Wang's company. All of the accounts have been frozen by the Swiss Federal Court.

The files also include details on a number of previously unexposed overseas bank accounts related to the US$2.8 billion Lafayette deal, as well as information about account transactions.

But the panel has not revealed what criminal evidence they have found in the files.

Andrew Wang fled the country following the death of naval Captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓), who was murdered in late 1993. Yin is widely believed to have been about to blow the whistle on colleagues who were taking kickbacks from the deal.

Wang has been charged in absentia with murder, corruption, money laundering and fraud.

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