Fri, Dec 20, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Frozen funds claim to be settled on final verdict

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwan is seeking to reclaim US$340 million from Swiss accounts opened by former Taiwanese navy captain Kuo Li-heng (郭力恆) and arms broker Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), the men behind a corruption scandal linked to the 1991 procurement of Lafayette-class frigates from France, Taiwanese investigation authorities said.

Special Investigation Division (SID) spokesman John Chang (張進豐) declined to reveal more details as “mutual judicial assistance” is still ongoing.

The nation’s High Court earlier this year found that Kuo was an accomplice in the bribery scandal, opening the door for Taiwan to reclaim the US$340 million.

Swiss authorities have frozen about US$700 million in bank accounts belonging to Wang and Kuo since 2001 at the request of Taiwanese judicial authorities. They have agreed to send the funds to Taiwan once a final verdict in the case has been reached.

A source familiar with the court case said that a ruling by the High Court to retrieve the funds has been appealed to the Supreme Court, but Taiwan will still deliver the High Court’s decision to Switzerland through judicial channels.

The SID estimates that 60 percent of the money was intended as kickbacks in the frigate deal, while 40 percent was meant for a deal to buy Mirage fighter jets.

The corruption and bribery case stems from a 1991 deal for Taiwan’s Navy to buy six Lafayette-class frigates from French company Thomson-CSF, now renamed Thales SA, for a high price tag of US$2.8 billion. The price included procurement kickbacks and bribes to facilitate the purchase.

The High Court earlier this year sentenced Kuo to 15 years in prison for accepting US$17.6 million in kickbacks from Wang relating to the frigate deal.

He was released from Taipei Prison on Dec. 3 after nearly 20 years of incarceration.

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