Dual nationality helping fugitives flee from justice

LAWMAKER'S WARNING:TSU legislators met with Ministry of Justice officials to discuss how several high-profile suspects have been able to evade police

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 2

The government's recognition of dual nationality could hinder law-enforcement officials' efforts to track down criminals, according to Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Lo Chih-ming (羅志明).

"More and more criminals or suspects have taken advantage of having a second passport to leave the country when they realized they were wanted," Lo said yesterday. "I was told that our law-enforcement officers could not do anything about this. This is a serious problem."

Lo said the lack of judicial-cooperation relations with other countries also creates problems because Taiwanese officials have no jurisdiction outside the country.

"That means even if fugitives are caught in a foreign country, we will have difficulties getting them back for trial," Lo said.

Lo made his remarks at a press conference after TSU lawmakers met with Vice Minister of Justice Yen Da-ho (顏大和) and other Ministry of Justice officials to discuss the cases of several well-known people who hold second passports and fled the country because of legal difficulties, including former Kuo-feng Construction Co president Chung Tai-lang (鍾太郎) and former Kaohsiung City Council speaker Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄).

Chung was involved in the 1992 Sipiantou scandal, which involved a project to build water-pumping station in Taipei County. He fled to Japan on a Dominican Republic passport, reportedly a fake, on Dec. 7, 1995, as prosecutors investigated him.

The Panchiao District Prosecutors' Office later indicted Chung on charges of bribery, breach of trust and corruption and suggested a 16-year sentence. He remains a fugitive and is reported to be in Canada.

Chu was convicted for bribery and was sentenced to 22 months in jail. He was supposed to report to the Kaohsiung District Prose-cutors' Office to begin his jail sentence on Oct. 16 but he never showed up.

Many people believed that Chu is in Zhuhai, China, but there are rumors that he might be in Australia since he also possesses Australian citizenship.

The question of dual nationality has also been raised in the Chung Hsing Bills Finance case, which prosecutors are re-investigating.

An interrogation session for Chen Pi-yun (陳碧雲), the sister-in-law of People First Party Chairman James Soong's (宋楚瑜), has been scheduled for next Wednesday, but Lo yesterday questioned whether Chen will show up.

"She is a US citizen and living in Honolulu, Hawaii. To me, I think she has perfect reasons for not coming back. If that is the case, I believe our prosecutors will have a hard time investigating the case," Lo said.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the US is the only country which has an official judicial-cooperation relationship with Taiwan.

The ministry said that under the "Agreement on Criminal Justice Cooperation" with the US, judicial officials of both countries will help combat cross-national crimes, including drug-related crimes, money laundering, economic crimes, Internet crimes and so on.

The agreement also facilitates Taiwan's providing assistance to Washington in the fight against terrorism.

The ministry is working on a prison inmate exchange agreement with Thailand but no significant progress has been made so far.