The Taiwan High Court yesterday rejected an appeal filed by Wu Shih-tsai (吳思材), a suspect involved in a controversial diplomatic fraud scandal, for his release.
Wu was detained by the Taipei District Court on May 6 and held incommunicado after a three-and-a-half-hour review of the case regarding his suspected role as a middleman in the scandal in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) was defrauded of US$29.8 million while seeking to forge official ties with Papua New Guinea in 2006.
The Taiwan High Court ruled that Wu be detained indefinitely on the grounds that Wu is suspected of having embezzled a huge amount of money that belonged to the government and people of Taiwan; that he had tried to go to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in an attempt to flee; that he might collude, if freed, with Ching Chi-ju (金紀玖), a local businessman who holds a US passport and who is suspected of embezzling most of the US$30 million from a Singaporean bank account jointly held by the two men; and that the scandal has caused tremendous damage to Taiwan’s international image.
The funds were wired into the account by MOFA in September to be used as “technical aid” for Papua New Guinea in the hope of forging diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The scandal came to light on May 1 when a Singaporean newspaper reported that the Singapore High Court had approved Taiwan’s application for an injunction to freeze the joint bank account held by Ching and Wu.
The pair were commissioned to help Taiwan establish diplomatic ties with Papua New Guinea in 2006.
The ministry wired US$30 million into their joint account in Singapore on Sept. 14, 2006, but the two brokers later disappeared, along with the funds.
Taipei prosecutors detained Wu on May 6, although he claimed he had not received any money for his role in the failed diplomatic scheme.
The scandal led to the downfall of three senior officials of the former Democratic Progressive Party government — vice premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), minister of foreign affairs James Huang (黃志芳) and deputy minister of national defense Ko Chen-heng (柯承亨) — all of whom resigned to take responsibility only two weeks before they were to finish their terms on Tuesday, when the new Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-led government was inaugurated.
On May 12, local prosecutors listed Ching, who is believed to be hiding in the US, as one of the country’s most wanted fugitives as they continued their investigations into the case.