Investigators have discovered that a March 29 tour given to showbiz personality Janet Lee (李蒨蓉) and others of the 601st Air Cavalry Brigade’s AH-64E Apache helicopters was not the only such visit by civilians to off-limits bases.
Minister of National Defense Kao Kuang-chi (高廣圻) yesterday said that another civilian group was allowed onto the base in Taoyuan’s Longtan District (龍潭) and into the Apaches’ hangar the same day as Lee’s tour.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of National Defense said two other “privileged access” tours had taken place over the Lunar New Year holiday, on Feb. 20 and Feb. 22.
It said that Lieutenant Colonel Lao Nai-cheng (勞乃成), the Apache pilot at the center of the scandal, had led the Feb. 22 tour.
Responding to questions at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, Kao said the “fourth group” was made up of six people and was led by a pilot surnamed Lin (林).
An investigation by the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office found that two separate groups visited the base on the afternoon of March 29, and both had pet dogs with them.
Meanwhile, Lao is also under investigation by prosecutors for allegedly forging a visitor’s name for entry into the base so that a Japanese man, surnamed Hirayama, could visit.
The name of Chiu Po-han (邱柏翰), Lao’s brother-in-law, appears on the base visitors’ log for March 29. However, Chiu told investigators that he had not been anywhere near the base that day and was not part of the tour group.
Investigators believe Lao put down Chiu’s name as a cover for Hirayama, who is the boyfriend of Lao’s sister-in-law, Chiu Ya-chi (邱雅琦).
If this is proven, Lao could face legal action for forgery and might also lead to the ministry adding another major demerit to his record, which could lead to his dismissal from active service and docking of his salary.
At the committee meeting, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) accused Kao and top army officials of trying to protect Lao.
“By only receiving two major demerits, Lao could remain on active service, receiving his full salary, and when he retires, he could still the collect a generous monthly military pension. The army is helping to cover up Lao’s wrongdoing and allowing him to remain in service. How can our citizens accept this?” Kuan said.
Several politicians and pundits have complained that investigators are only looking into visits to off-limits bases this year, but military officers have for years provided access for friends and relatives to see advanced weapon systems.
A number of Taipei City councilors on Wednesday told reporters that they have photographs to prove that security breaches also occurred at the 602nd Air Cavalry Brigade base in Taichung, where a Bell AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter squadron is stationed.
They said a commander from Army Command Headquarters surnamed Chao (趙) gave privileged access to the 602nd Brigade base in 2009 to a group of 20 people, including business executives and senior government officials, and the visitors went inside the AH-1W hangars to take photographs.
However, the ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) told a news conference yesterday said the Taichung tour five years ago was not a security breach because it took place during an “open day” at the base.
He said the pilot in that visit had obtained the necessary permission to take the visitors there.
Additional reporting by CNA
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