The Taipei District Court ruled on Thursday against the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in a civil lawsuit filed to seek compensation from individuals sentenced for taking bribes during the ministry’s purchase of Lafayette frigates from France.
The MND took former navy captain Kuo Li-heng (郭力恆), his brother Kuo Wen-tien (郭問天) and arms dealer Andrew Wang (汪傳浦) to court in 2007 to seek US$880 million in compensation for extra expenses accrued during the purchase of the warships.
The ministry claimed at the time that the bribery case had disgraced the country’s armed forces.
However, the defendants denied their actions had resulted in the MND paying more for the vessels and they argued that the case had already passed the statute of limitations for compensation requests, which stands at two years following the incident in question.
Court documents released earlier in the day said the court ruled against the MND, adding that the probe into the corruption case was first launched in 2002 by the Control Yuan, the government branch responsible for investigating and censuring irregular or illicit behavior by public servants and government agencies.
As the MND did not take the case to court until five years later, it no longer had the right to ask for compensation, the court ruled.
The case can be appealed to the Taiwan High Court.
The 1991 procurement of six naval frigates by the navy from the French company Thomson-CSF, was complicated by a procurement kickback scandal that came to light after the body of navy officer Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓) was found floating off the coast of northern Taiwan in December 1993.
Yin was widely suspected to have been murdered because he was about to blow the whistle on the kickback scandal.
Kuo Li-heng was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2010 for taking bribes while his brother was sentenced to two years in prison for helping to launder money.
Wang, who remains at large, has been wanted by Taiwanese authorities on murder charges since September 2000.