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Taiwan frees key figure in Lafayette scandal
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-17 02:49 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former Navy Captain Kuo Li-heng, a key figure in the Lafayette bribery scandal which involved the mysterious death of Navy Captain Yin Ching-feng, was released earlier this month after 20 years in prison, reports said Tuesday.

The discovery of Yin’s body in December 1993 touched off a scandal which rocked Taiwan’s political and military establishment, but more than two decades later, many details about the case still remain a mystery.

Yin was believed to have been about to blow the whistle about colleagues accepting millions in kickbacks for the purchase of six Lafayette-class frigates from France.

Kuo was released earlier this month after the Taiwan High Court approved a reduction in his life sentence. He reportedly accepted US$17 million (NT$503 million) in bribes from arms dealer Andrew Wang to facilitate the Lafayette deal and was also found guilty of leaking classified information.

Even though the Taiwan High Court sentenced him earlier this year to a separate 15 years in jail on different bribery charges, he will not have to return to prison even if the final verdict finds him guilty, because the 20 years he already served are seen as a legal maximum, reports said. He will not have to report to police either because his release does not amount to parole.

Separate investigations into the Lafayette deal suspected that up to US$400 million (NT$11.8 billion) in kickbacks might have been paid to middlemen, politicians and military officers in Taiwan, France and China.

Wang served as the Taiwan agent for French arms producer Thomson-CSF but fled the country after Yin’s death became public. He has been wanted for murder since 2000, but is widely believed to be living somewhere in the West.

Switzerland returned US$34 million (NT$1 billion) to Taiwan in 2007 from frozen bank deposits believed to be bribe money in the Lafayette case. The money was found in accounts held by Wang and his relatives and by Kuo and his brother Kuo Wen-tien, who was sentenced to two years in prison last May for helping to launder illegal funds by opening the Swiss accounts.

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