Fugitive cases fuel mistrust for authorities

The China Post news staff

It looks pretty easy for criminals to flee Taiwan. The embarrassment for the law enforcement authorities over the escape of a corrupt prosecutor was barely over when news broke Friday that a tycoon convicted of insider trading had also fled the country. Prosecutor Jing Tian-bo — who has been convicted of taking bribes — and the businessman, Chen Wu-hsiung — a heavyweight in Taiwan’s petrochemical industry who was once a presidential adviser — have joined a list of high-profile fugitives that includes political heavyweights and other tycoons, such as former Legislative Speaker Liu Sung-pan, and Chen Yao-hao, the boss of the now collapsed Tuntex Group. Many other criminals must have also fled the country without the general public knowing, but it is a repeat of such high-profile escapes that has sent us asking why the authorities have not learned their lesson.

The prosecution in Jing’s case has accused the court of ignoring its demand to have the defendant detained during the trial. But the court has argued that it had seen no necessity to remand Jing into custody before the final verdict was returned. Lawmakers have also been blamed for alleged procrastination in reforming the criminal code that would have enabled better monitoring of suspects and defendants and avoided the fleeing of Jing. But it is an issue more complicated than it seems. First, we don’t believe the law enforcement bodies of the country have sufficient resources even if lawmakers make stringent laws for monitoring. Then we must decide which suspects and defendants must be more closely watched and how it ought to be done. In many cases, suspects and defendants still enjoy a high degree of freedom. In Jing’s case, he was able to sell off his property legally before fleeing, without alarming the law enforcement authorities. The authorities should have been more vigilant but there is no law barring the property transactions.