Singaporean jailed over role in 2006 PNG-Taiwan diplomatic scandal

16/11/2011 07:36


Singaporean Wu Shih-tsai jailed over role in PNG-Taiwan diplomatic scandal.

Picture courtesy of Asia One News

A Singaporean man has been jailed for three years and 10 months by Taiwan’s high court over his role in the 2006 Papua New Guinea-Taiwan diplomatic scandal.

Wu Shih-tsai, originally from Taiwan, was barred from appealing after the sentencing which added six months to the jail term previously handed down by the district court reports the Taipei Times.

The Taiwanese foreign ministry wired $29.8 million to Wu and his business partner Ching Chi-ju in 2006 to establish diplomatic relations with PNG, as both claimed to have good connections with PNG officials in the Somare government.

However, failure by the Somare government to switch its allegiance from Beijing to Taipei led to the uncovering of the secret negotiations and the prosecution of Wu. Ching fled to the United States and is believed to be in hiding in California.

The scandal reverberated across Taiwan’s political landscape with the country’s then vice premier Chiou I-jen, foreign minister James Huang and vice-defence minister Ko Chen-heng resigning in May 2008.

In PNG the Somare government denied any knowledge of the meetings until the local newspaper Post-Courier broke the story on a meeting between Huang and then Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare in Singapore.

Former ministers Paul Tiensten and Timothy Bonga as well as PNG lawyer Dr Florian Gubon were reportedly named as being part of the PNG government delegation. However, attempts by the Sir Mekere Morauta-led Opposition to get the Somare government to institute a full inquiry were stifled by controversial Speaker Jeffrey Nape.

Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) early this year urged the Somare government to revisit the saga, in support of calls by then Opposition MP Sam Basil on government to be accountable.

“The Taiwanese legal system has responded by investigating and in one instance imprisoning an individual involved. Why have we seen no action in PNG? It seems that PNG sleeps while Taiwan acts vigorously over this issue,” said TIPNG.

But Sir Michael in response said the Singapore high court had made no mention of “PNG government involvement” in its own proceedings and the matter had been resolved.

The Somare government was toppled in August with former Somare government cabinet minister Peter O’Neill getting elected as Prime Minister. While Mr O’Neill has announced that tackling corruption would be one of his government’s top priorities, the diplomatic scandal is yet to make it to hit list of corruption allegations that a police taskforce is investigating.

Ironically, Tiensten was reportedly arrested and taken in by police for questioning upon his arrival in Port Moresby yesterday from Brisbane. It is understood the interrogation relates to the alleged embezzlement of $3 million in public funds.