Wed, Jun 24, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Ex-navy captain in procurement scandal released

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Former navy captain Kuo Li-heng, center, yesterday declines to respond to reporters’ questions after being released from Taichung Prison.

Photo: CNA

Former navy captain Kuo Li-heng (郭力恆), who played a prominent role in the Lafayette frigate scandal, was released from jail yesterday, after serving his latest six-month term in lieu of paying a court-imposed fine of NT$200 million (US$6.45 million).

Kuo was found guilty of accepting NT$1.1 billion in kickbacks for brokering the deal, together with arms dealer Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), for the navy’s purchase of six Lafayette-class frigates from France in the early 1990s.

At least a dozen Taiwanese and French nationals associated with the case have since died in suspicious circumstances, including captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓), the navy official in charge of the procurement case.

A Taiwan High Court ruling in December last year upheld an earlier decision sentencing Kuo to 15 years in prison and a fine of NT$200 million for his role in the procurement scandal.

However, Kuo did not have to serve the 15-year term as he had earlier been convicted of bribery charges relating to the procurement of German minesweepers, for which he served 20 years in prison. According to the Criminal Code, the prison terms for the two cases cannot exceed 20 years.

Claiming that he could not pay the fine, Kuo chose to serve six months in jail.

His release reawakened public interest — and anger — over the case, with many believing that the “light” penalty has allowed Kuo to hide his “bribe money.” Many have also questioned his and Wang’s role in Yin’s murder.

“The court should order Kuo to serve his full 15-year term,” one netizen wrote.

“It has been too easy for Kuo: He saved NT$1.1 million for each day he spent in jail,” another commented, referring to Kuo serving six months in prison in lieu of paying the NT$200 million fine.

“It is wrong to allow this greedy, corrupt military official to go free, when the Lafayette scandal and Yin’s murder case remain unsolved,” a netizen added.

Kuo did not make any comment when he walked out of Taichung Prison yesterday morning and was met by a group of reporters. However, he later released a written response to some of the questions.

He wrote that he did not violate his job mandate in handling the Lafayette frigate procurement, and that Wang was not connected to Yin’s murder.

Working as a junior procurement officer, Kuo accompanied Yin on a visit to France in September 1993 in connection with the Lafayette frigate deal. He was one of the last people to see Yin alive before the navy captain was murdered on Dec. 9, 1993, with his body found the next day in waters off Taiwan’s east coast.

On the run from justice for two decades since the scandal broke, Wang reportedly died following an illness in the UK in February.

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