Taipei vows to continue hunt for fugitive ex-arms dealer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2010, 12:00am

Taiwan's judicial authorities vowed yesterday that they would continue to pursue a former arms dealer said to have acted as the middleman between Taiwan, France and the mainland in the controversial Lafayette deal.

Andrew Wang Chuan-pu, who would now be 81, was the Taiwanese agent for Thomson-CSF, now known as Thales. He has been on the run since 1993. He has been listed as one of Taiwan's top 10 most wanted fugitives over his alleged role in the murder of navy captain Yin Ching-feng and a series of kickback and corruption scandals implicating Taiwan, France and the mainland.

Wang left Taiwan shortly after Yin - who was about to blow the whistle on alleged kickbacks and corruption in the navy's purchase of six French frigates - was found floating off the island's north coast in December 1993. He has since been reported to have been living in luxury in Switzerland, Britain and the United States, even though a number of his bank accounts were frozen by Swiss authorities for alleged corruption.

A former air force officer, Wang received electronic communication training in the US before leaving the air force in the 1950s to become a translator for US military officers.

Making the most of his military background and links, Wang set up as an arms dealer in the 1960s. He became Thomson-CSF's agent in Taiwan in 1988 in order to broker the frigate deal.

Taiwan originally wanted to buy Perry-class frigates from South Korea, but after a 1989 visit to France by then chief of general staff, Hau Pei-tsun, Taiwan turned to France. Mainland pressure saw the French government temporarily halt talks on the deal. But after a female Taiwanese agent reportedly bribed mainland officials to the tune of US$100 million, the talks resumed and a deal was struck in 1991.