Thu, May 08, 2008 - Page 3 News List

PNG aid scandal: Singapore High Court weighs in on PNG fund scandal

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA , SINGAPORE

The Singapore High Court gave its approval on Monday for the Taiwanese government to file a complaint to recover its assets from Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖) and Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材), the Central News Agency (CNA) reported yesterday.

The court also allowed Loo & Partners, the Singaporean law firm representing the Taiwanese government, to deliver the complaints to Ching in California or anywhere else in the US and to Wu in Taipei or anywhere else in Taiwan to allow the case to be sent to a preparatory panel and on to a tribunal, CNA reported.

According to Singaporean law, after a plaintiff files a complaint with the court, the court must issue an approval before the complaint can be delivered to the defendant. This procedure must be completed before any further judicial proceedings can take place.

The complaint says that Ching holds a US passport while Wu’s has a Taiwanese contact address. Within 21 days of receiving the complaint, the pair must notify the Singapore High Court of their receipt and must respond to the charges. If they fail to respond within that timeframe, the plaintiff may ask the court to rule on their behalf.

A Singaporean newspaper reported yesterday that the US$30 million in funds remitted by Taiwan in the dollar-diplomacy scandal that have gone missing were still in a Singaporean bank account as of July 31 last year.

The Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao said a letter issued by the Singapore-based OCBC Bank on Aug. 7 last year confirmed that the account held jointly by Ching, and Wu had a balance of US$29.8 billion between July 1 and July 31 last year, as well as during the period from Nov. 2 and Dec. 31, 2006.

The letter was provided to the court by Taiwan’s representative to Singapore, Kuo Shih-nan (郭時南), who petitioned the court on April 18 for an injunction to freeze the joint bank account as well as assets owned by Wu and Ching — the two middlemen who tried to help negotiate the establishment of diplomatic ties with Papua New Guinea on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳), who resigned over the case on Tuesday, said that Wu had told the ministry that the money was still in the bank account in January, but had disappeared by the end of March.

Huang accused Ching of embezzling the US$29.8 billion that was remitted by the ministry on Sept. 14, 2006, to the OCBC Bank account of Ching and Wu as aid for Papua New Guinea. However, after negotiations with Papua New Guinea fell apart, the ministry failed to reclaim the money from Ching, Huang said.

The Lianhe Zaobao, citing testimony by representative Kuo to the High Court, said Ching initially agreed to meet Taiwanese officials in Singapore in December 2006 to draw the money from the bank account. On the day the two sides were to meet, however, Ching claimed he was flying to Shanghai to visit his sick daughter.

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