IB claims ignorance over broker funds

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Investigation Bureau (IB) said yesterday it knows nothing about the reported remittances of more than US$1 million into the bank accounts of the families and friends of one broker involved in the missing of US$29.8 million intended to reestablish Taiwan’s formal relations with Papua New Guinea (PNG). The Chinese-language United Daily News reported that the money flew last year into the bank accounts of people related to Wu Shi-tsai, one of the two brokers, as commission for his service. Wu, an ethnic Chinese from Singapore, is presently the only person detained by law enforcement authorities despite of the involvement of around a dozen senor officials and business people implicated in the same case. He told prosecutors last week the whole scam was a “money laundering” scheme with no real intention of helping to revive Taiwan’s formal ties with PNG. Other media reports indicated that Taiwan’s search for help from anti-money laundering authorities in the probe has been met with polite declines.

An official at the IB under the Ministry of Justice (IBMJ) said the bureau’s center against money laundering knows nothing about the financial transactions related to Wu or the rebuffing by Singapore. He said the center did not know where the reporters got such information. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) was defrauded of US$29.8 million. The money was remitted into an account jointly held by Wu and Ching Chi-jiu, the second middleman, in Singapore’s OCBC bank on Sept. 14, 2006, by Taiwan’s MOFA at an order of Chang Chiang-sheng, one of Foreign Minister James Huang’s aides,

But the sum was gone after the plan to push for the PNG ties was called off.

Ching was suspected of diverting the money to split the total between culprits in the scheme at a latter date. Vice Premier Chiou I-jen, Minister Huang, and Deputy Minister of National Defense Ko Chen-heng resigned over their involvement in the scandal.

The trio, incidentally all members of the inner circle of President Chen Shui-bian, claimed that they received no money in the scam and they were simply victims of con artists. Lawyer Chang Hsiu of Ching, a Taiwanese citizen who also holds a U.S. passport, said his client has canceled a planned press conference before May 20 to give a full explanation of the case. Chang said Ching has now turned more cautious since becomiong aware of hearsay that there is now a cash award of US$1 million to those who provide the information about Ching’s whereabouts.

Law enforcement agencies in Taiwan have generally followed the media reports in their investigation. Dissatisfied with the passive investigation efforts by the IB and prosecutors, Legislator Chiu Yi of the incoming ruling Kuomintang (KMT) flew to Shanghai last week to conduct a probe into Ching’s assets and where he would have stashed the fund for future sharing with accomplices. Chiu alleged that Chiu’s girlfriend in China could have been designated a temporary keeper of the money embezzled from Taiwan’s taxpayers. He urged the MOFA to at least file a lawsuit to seize Ching’s assets in Taiwan and China, where Ching still keeps highly valuable real estate.