Lafayette scandal ruling finalized; Kuo to return NT$10.4 billion


By Lauly Li ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Supreme Court yesterday finalized former Navy Captain Kuo Li-heng’s (郭力恆) verdict, ruling that Kuo should serve 15 years in prison, pay a fine of NT$200 million and return NT$10.4 billion in illegal income to the country over the procurement of Lafayette-class frigates from France in the 1990s. The verdict can not be appealed.

The Taipei District Prosecutors Office (TDPO) said, however, that unless Kuo commits another crime he likely will not need to serve his prison term in accordance with the Criminal Code. The prosecutors explained that Kuo has been serving a life sentence since 1994 on separate charges of taking bribes and disclosing confidential information regarding a minesweeper purchase and the Lafayette procurement. After serving nearly 20 years in prison, last December Kuo was set free due to a clause in the Criminal Code that limits a prison term to a maximum of 20 years.

The TDPO said it prohibited Kuo from leaving the country immediately after the Supreme Court announced the ruling yesterday afternoon. The Supreme Court at the same time sentenced Kuo’s brother, Kuo Wen-tien (郭問天), to two years in prison and a fine of NT$10 million for assisting his brother in laundering the ill-gotten gains by setting up accounts in Switzerland. The TDPO said apart from Kuo’s US$35 million that has been detained by the Special Investigation Division (SID), it will investigate Kuo Li-heng’s assets and properties to ensure that he has the capability to return the NT$10.4 billion.

TDPO spokesman Huang Mou-hsin (黃謀信) further added that the TDPO will demand that Kuo come to the prosecutor’s office to pay the NT$200 million fine, noting that if Kuo is unable to pay the fine, he should serve compulsory labor for a maximum of six months.

Huang said the TDPO received the verdict notice from the Supreme Court, noting that it will file a request with the district court to rule Kuo’s term as served. Kuo was convicted of accepting a kickback of US$17 million from arms dealer Andrew Wang (汪傳浦) over the Lafayette deal. Kuo is better known for his connection with his late colleague, Captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓), who died under suspicious circumstances in late 1993.

The kickback scandal of the procurement of six naval frigates by the Navy from the French company Thomson-CSF came to light after Yin was found dead at sea off northern Taiwan in December 1993.

Yin was suspected to have been murdered because he was going to blow the whistle on the kickback scandal. Wang, the Thomson-CSF agent in Taiwan, left the country 10 days after Yin’s body was found. He has been wanted by Taiwan on murder charges since September 2000.

The Supreme Prosecutors Office was quoted by the Apple Daily as saying that it is currently chasing after Wang’s illegal income in Switzerland via mutual judiciary assistance.