Mon, Dec 08, 2014 - Page 3 News List

High Court rejects appeal in frigate kickbacks case

FRENCH CONNECTION:Kuo Li-heng, a Navy captain, was released last year after serving 20 years on corruption charges in an unrelated case

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

The Taiwan High Court on Saturday rejected an appeal by jailed Navy Captain Kuo Li-heng (郭力恆), upholding an earlier decision for a 15-year prison term with a NT$200 million (US$64,290) fine.

Kuo was convicted in connection with the Lafayette frigate procurement scandal for receiving NT$1.1 billion in kickbacks for brokering the deal to purchase six Lafayette-class frigates from France in 1991.

After the court sentencing this April, Kuo lodged a motion to object — as the High Court imposed an additional six months of jail time in lieu of paying the NT$200 million fine — as Kuo said he does not have the money to pay the fine.

Besides the jail term and fine, in April’s final sentencing on the Lafayette case the Supreme Court also ruled that arms dealer Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), who is living in the UK, must pay back illicit gains of NT$10.4 billion.

Kuo, 60, did not have to serve the 15-year term because he had already served 20 years for another corruption conviction, which involved the navy’s purchase of the US-made Osprey-class coastal minehunter where he leaked classified information about the tender.

LIFE SENTENCE

Kuo had been serving a life sentence handed down by a military court, but benefited from an amendment to the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法) last year — which transferred all military criminal cases to civilian courts during peacetime — that limits prison terms to 20 years, and Kuo was released from jail last year.

Since the Supreme Court ruling in April, the government has requested Swiss authorities to retrieve the NT$10.4 billion frozen in accounts belonging to Wang.

In the 1991 Lafayette case, Wang brokered the deal between French contractor Thomson-CSF (later renamed Thales Group) and the navy, edging out an alternate offer for frigates from South Korea.

SUSPECTED OF MURDER

Kuo and Wang are also suspected of having had a role in the 1993 murder of Navy Captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓).

At the time of the murder, Kuo was an officer in the navy’s Weapons Procurement Office and is alleged to be one of the few people privy to the circumstances surrounding Yin’s death.

Yin is believed to have been murdered because he was preparing to blow the whistle on the people who received kickbacks from the inflated prices paid for the six French frigates.

Wang has been on the wanted list for murder since September 2000.

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