Officials accused of pocketing PNG fund

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2008, 12:00am

A middleman entrusted with helping Taiwan establish diplomatic ties with Papua New Guinea claimed last night that US$29.8 million of the US$30 million fund earmarked for the purpose had been pocketed by three senior officials.

At a press conference, a lawyer for Wu Shih-tsai, a Singapore-based businessman who has been detained over the scandal, revealed a letter written by Mr Wu, who said the bid was a sham for the officials to pocket the money.

In the letter, Mr Wu claimed that US$20 million was sent to former vice-premier Chiou I-jen and former defence vice-minister Ko Cheng-heng, and another US$9.8 million had been given to Chang Chiang-sheng, a Foreign Ministry official who promised the money would be sent to James Huang Chih-fang, then foreign minister.

Only US$200,000 was actually sent to representatives of Papua New Guinea, he said.

Mr Chiou, Mr Ko and Mr Huang have quit over the scandal, despite denying having received kickbacks.

In response to the fresh allegations, the Foreign Ministry last night said Mr Wu's remarks were full of contradictions and denied accusations made about Mr Chang's involvements in the transaction.

Mr Chiou in 2006 instructed that Mr Huang work with a middleman, identified as Ching Chi-ju, a Taiwanese businessman with a US passport who has disappeared with the money, in a bid to establish official ties with the Pacific island nation.

Mr Ching then said his associate, Mr Wu, had connections with Papua New Guinea and could help with the process.

Without checking their credibility, the Foreign Ministry hired them for the task.