The Taiwan High Court yesterday sentenced retired navy captain Kuo Li-heng (郭力恆) to 15 years in prison and has deprived him of his civil rights for 10 years on corruption charges relating to the procurement of six Lafayette-class frigates from France in 1991.
Meanwhile, Kuo’s brother, Kuo Wen-tien (郭問天), was sentenced to two years for assisting Kuo Li-heng in laundering illegally obtained money by opening bank accounts in Switzerland, the ruling added.
The verdict can be appealed.
Kuo Li-heng has been serving a life sentence since 1994 on separate charges of taking bribes and disclosing classified information in the Lafayette procurement deal.
He was convicted of accepting US$17 million in kickbacks from arms dealer Andrew Wang (汪傳浦) to facilitate the deal.
A French judicial probe was launched in 2001 to investigate claims that much of the money paid by Taiwan a decade earlier went toward commissions to middlemen, politicians and military officers in Taiwan, China and France.
Taiwanese prosecutors concluded in the same year that as much as US$400 million in bribes may have been paid throughout the course of the deal.
Wang was a Taiwanese agent for French arms supplier Thompson-CSF. He fled the country following the death of navy Captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓) under suspicious circumstances in late 1993.Prosecutors believed that Yin was poised to blow the whistle on colleagues who had received kickbacks from the Lafayette deal.
Wang has been wanted by Taiwanese prosecutors on a murder charge since September 2000.
In June 2007, Swiss authorities returned US$34 million in frozen bank deposits to Taiwan that were believed to be kickbacks connected to the Lafayette procurement deal.
The sum was part of a sum Taiwan has sought to recover from a number of Swiss bank accounts belonging to Taiwanese involved in the scandal, including Wang, Kuo Li-heng and Kuo Wen-tien.