Prosecutors have arrested a lieutenant colonel who allegedly planned to defect to China by flying a helicopter to a Chinese aircraft carrier near the median line of the Taiwan Strait in exchange for US$15 million, an online magazine reported yesterday.
The report by the Chinese-language CTWant was confirmed by the Ministry of National Defense, which later said it had taken measures to minimize the damage caused by the case.
After receiving internal reports about the incident, the ministry and national security agencies conducted counterintelligence investigations and requested a judicial investigation, the report said.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
CTWant said that a lieutenant colonel surnamed Hsieh (謝) of the army’s Aviation and Special Forces Command was approached by a Chinese espionage group led by retired military officer Chen Yu-xin (陳裕炘).
Hsieh was invited to Bangkok to meet with Chen and two people who claimed to be officers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, it said.
They offered to evacuate Hsieh’s family to Thailand in the event of a cross-strait conflict and provide him with NT$200,000 per month, and in exchange, Hsieh would fly a CH-47F Chinook helicopter to a Chinese aircraft carrier in the Strait, the report said.
In June, the group allegedly told Hsieh that when a Chinese aircraft carrier passed within 24 nautical miles (44.5km) of Taiwan during a military drill, he would be able to land on the ship within five minutes, after flying the helicopter at low altitude along the coastline, it said.
Hsieh deemed the risk too high and declined, it said.
The group then increased their offer to half the cost of the helicopter, which would be US$15 million, saying they would pay US$1 million to US$2 million upfront, it said.
Hsieh discussed the detailed plan with them, saying that if the carrier was 24 nautical miles off Kaohsiung, he would be able to land on the carrier without crossing the median line, and would not likely be intercepted by the armed forces, the report said.
Prosecutors and investigators received a tip about the plan and arrested Hsieh and the person who passed on information to him before the operation was realized, it said.
Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) told reporters that Beijing’s attempts to enlist Taiwanese in espionage have been considerable.
The armed forces has stepped up its efforts in dealing with such cases in the past few years, bringing suspects to justice, sharing information with prosecutors and controlling any damage caused, he said.
The military would never cover up such cases, he added.
Meanwhile, the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office charged former lieutenant colonel and Military News Agency deputy director Kung Fan-chia (孔繁嘉) with contravening the National Security Act (國家安全法).
Kung allegedly helped form a Chinese espionage organization in the military, receiving US$11,700 and 60,000 yuan (US$8,361) in exchange, prosecutors said.
He invited military officers to Vietnam, aiming to connect them with Chinese intelligence officials, prosecutors said, adding that the plan failed as Kung was turned down by the officers he approached.
The prosecutors’ office asked the court to issue a severe punishment.
Additional reporting by Yu Jui-jen
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