Frigate case evidence backs illegal commissions allegations

The China Post staff

The latest evidence supports the belief that some officials involved in the Lafayette-class frigate purchase have taken illegal commissions, the Central News Agency reported yesterday, quoting unidentified Control Yuan members.

The fact that several accounts related to Andrew Wang, an arms dealer connected with the deal, have been frozen along with those of his family members in various countries, is supporting suspicions about commissions, they added.

They also cited the firing of three workers by a Swiss bank for their alleged involvement in money laundering that could also be linked to the yet-unresolved scandal. According to the Central News Agency, the government watchdog which is looking into the scandal had been divided until lately as to whether anyone involved in the deal had taken commissions. The picture is getting clearer, said the officials.

The officials added that they would consider cooperating with international organizations working against money-laundering to investigate the case. According to the news agency, several bank accounts in Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg which are related to Wang’s family have been blocked because of unusual flows of huge sum.

The banks’ move has prompted some international anti-money laundering organizations to look into the accounts.

Some French authorities have expressed the willingness to work with local officials in looking into the case, the Control Yuan officials said.

The officials added that apart from the justice department, the French finance ministry and customs, as well as their counterparts in other countries involved, must also hold relevant evidence.

In 1991, Taiwan bought six frigates from France at a price of US$650 million more than it should have, for a total of US$2.7 billion.

Wang’s overseas accounts, which were reportedly worth billion of NT dollars, were frozen as they were thought to be kickbacks used to secure a French contract to supply Taiwan with the warships it desired.

On Friday, a senior Control Yuan member Kang Ning-hsiang hinted at the involvement of higher officials in the scandal.

Kang’s remarks came after talking to Lei Hsueh-ming, former Navy vice admiral who was accused of corruption.

Last week, Lei was indicted of taking bribes in the scam along with eight other retired Naval officials.

According to Kang, Lei said he was merely carrying out orders from higher ranking officials when handling the frigate procurement project.

Lei’s statement was construed as a confirmation that the procurement project was a scandal. Lei yesterday called Kang’s remarks a complete distortion.

Lei said he was carrying out orders from higher officials to switch from South Korea to France for the procurement, not to engage in any improper deal.

Lei said Kang should not have taken the words out of their context.