Sat, May 10, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Papua fraud suspect sets condition for his return

REMUNERATION A lawyer for one of the men at the center of the Papua New Guinea scandal said it would be impossible for the authorities to get all the money back

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA AND AP , LOS ANGELES

Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖), who has been embroiled in a high-profile checkbook-diplomacy scandal in which Taiwan was defrauded of US$30 million, will consider returning to Taiwan if he can be assured his personal safety would be protected, his lawyer said.

Lawyer Chang Hsiu (張修) said Ching planned to hold a news conference in Los Angeles sometime before May 20, when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration steps down, to provide a clear picture of what happened, and specifically to give the media a clearer picture of who received funds and in what amounts.

He said Ching’s top concern now was his personal safety.

Ching feels he was entitled to remuneration for his efforts as a middleman in brokering a deal to help Taiwan establish diplomatic relations with Papua New Guinea, and did not pocket any funds not intended for him, his lawyer said.

Chang said DPP authorities would not be able to recover the entire US$30 million that had been remitted to a joint account held in Singapore by Ching and another middleman involved in the deal, Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材).

“I think that would be impossible because a big chunk of it has already been paid to Papua New Guinea officials [to facilitate talks on establishing ties] and another part was paid to Ching Chi-ju and Wu Shih-tsai as reward for their efforts,” the lawyer said.

Chang said that Ching insisted he was entitled to a commission because he had done his part as a middleman and that it was DPP officials who had opted not to sign a communique with Papua New Guinea representatives on the establishment of diplomatic ties.

Taiwanese officials have said the money was given to the two middlemen on the assumption they could induce the impoverished Pacific nation to abandon Beijing. It was intended as economic aid for Papua New Guinea, providing it switched its recognition from China.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs remitted the US$30 million on Sept. 14, 2006, to an account jointly held by Ching and Wu in Singapore’s OCBC Bank.

The attempt was abandoned in late 2006 after a few months, when Taiwanese authorities concluded they could not convince Papua New Guinea to cross over into the Taiwanese diplomatic column.

The ministry has been unable to reclaim the money since negotiations with Papua New Guinea broke down.

The ministry says Ching, who left for the US, refused to return the money and went into hiding.

Ministry officials said they have kept in touch with Wu and sought many ways to retrieve the funds, but to no avail.

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