Reacting to speculation that he was the main protagonist in the Papua New Guinea diplomatic fund scandal, former vice premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) yesterday said a spate of lies have been purposely spread to “sway prosecutors in their investigations.”
“The rumor-spreading is serious and several things have been distorted,” Chiou said.
Chiou made the remarks in response to a report in yesterday’s Chinese-language Apple Daily which quoted unnamed sources as saying Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖), one of the alleged brokers in the botched deal, sent a text message to Chiou on April 27, Chiou knew Ching’s cellphone number and kept it in his notebook, and that faxes from Ching related to the case were found at Chiou’s house.
Based on this evidence, prosecutors presumed that Chiou has maintained communications with Ching all along and tried to shield Ching from being caught, the paper said without naming its source.
“The report was entirely false. I have been looking for Ching for more than a year, during which I have received only one text message from him,” Chiou said.
Chiuo said he didn’t remember the exact date of the message and suggested that prosecutors check his phone records.
The faxed documents were from the very early stages of the negotiations, which Ching sent to him to prove that he had started work, Chiou said.
“I lost track of Ching when he fled [in December 2006],” Chiou said.
Chiou, responding to the claim by Ching’s partner Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材), who via his attorney Hsu Ching-hsing (徐景星) on Wednesday night alleged that the US$30 million was never meant for setting up ties with Papua New Guinea but for laundering by government officials, said that Wu had repeatedly changed his story and what he had said was “full of inaccuracies.”
Wu, detained by prosecutors, said through Hsu that out of the US$30 million, US$9.8 million was meant for former minister of foreign affairs James Huang (黃志芳) and was sent to Huang’s aid Chang Chiang-sheng (張強生), US$10 million was for former vice minister of national defense Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨), and the other US$10 million was for Chiou.
Chiou said that prosecutors could check the account, designated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to deal specifically with cases related to confidential diplomacy, to find out whether the US$9.8 million was there.
“The account is in a domestic bank. Checking the account is not difficult at all … Ko and I are in the country, we can easily be investigated,” he said.
Chiou, who is barred from leaving Taiwan, said he had no intention of leaving the country as he is confident in his innocence and hopes the investigation will clear his name.
Meanwhile, MOFA spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) yesterday denied Wu’s allegations that ministry officials have illegally received money from him, calling Wu’s statements “preposterous.”
Yeh told a regular briefing that the ministry could not find the US$20 million after a “thorough search,” and her colleagues affirmed that they received no bribes from Wu.
Yeh also confirmed that Wu had also once been contracted as an economic consultant by Taiwan’s embassy in Haiti.
Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office Spokesman Lin Jinn-tsun (林錦村) yesterday said that Wu had said the letter which detailed the alleged payments made public by his defense counsel Hsu on Wednesday night was wrong.
“We asked the trio, including Wu, Hsu and Chang to meet today. Wu denied the content of the letter that Hsu made public,” Lin said at a press conference.
Several Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators yesterday expressed skepticism about the authenticity of Wu’s letters.
KMT Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said he could tell that many parts of Wu’s letters were questionable and that Wu remained “scared to tell the truth.”
‘DIDN’T GET A PENNY’
“[The letter showed that] Wu and Ching didn’t get a penny, but served as volunteers for the nation in the case. One of the ‘volunteers’ is even at large abroad. How could this be possible?” Chang said.
KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), who accompanied Wu in his first public appearance in Taipei last weekend, said he no longer believed Wu because Wu even lied about his ability to speak Mandarin.
KMT Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) and Lin, both members of the legislature’s Diplomacy and National Defense Committee, confirmed that Huang had consulted the opinions of several committee members regarding how to deal with the fund scandal several days before it made the headlines.
Chiang said during their meeting, Huang had tried to defend MOFA’s efforts to find Ching and the money.
Lin said told Huang to tell the whole truth and to apologize to the public over the case.
KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-ming (帥化民) yesterday also urged prosecutors to detain Chiou and Ko, saying that it could prevent evidence from being destroyed.
“Prosecutors should not cut them any slack just because of their previous government positions,” Shuai said.
Meanwhile, Ching’s lawyer said in Los Angeles on Wednesday that Ching will make a public statement no later than May 20.
Ching, who holds a US passport, will give his side of the story at a news conference, according to his lawyer.
At a separate press conference in Taipei yesterday, American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young did not give an explicit answer on how Washington might help Taiwan in repatriating wanted criminals whomight be at large in the US.
He said the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement signed in 2002 provides an information sharing platform for both judicial systems but does not include any extradition powers.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU, LOA IOK-SIN
JIMMY CHUANG AND CNA
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