USD 34 Million Handed Over to Taiwan; Consent Given by the Two Account-Holders
(Source: Swiss Federal Chancellery; issued June 13, 2007)
BERNE --- Switzerland has handed assets of USD 34 million over to Taiwan. Legal proceedings concerning the release of the remaining assets which are frozen in Switzerland are still pending. The assets in question are allegedly bribes connected with the frigate affair.
On 8 November 2005, Switzerland forwarded a large number of legal assistance files to the prosecuting authorities in Taiwan, France and Liechtenstein in support of investigations into corruption and other crimes associated with the sale of French frigates to Taiwan.
On 5 September 2006, the Taiwanese authorities lodged an application for the handover of assets that had been frozen in Switzerland as part of criminal and international legal assistance proceedings. The authorities put the loss incurred by Taiwan from the payment of bribes at USD 520 million (plus interest).
Application supported by bank records
The Taiwanese application was not based on any court recovery order. However, in exceptional cases - such as where the frozen assets are clearly of criminal origin - the Federal International Mutual Legal Assistance Act permits assets to be returned without a recovery order issued by the applicant state. Based on bank records handed over by Switzerland, the Taiwanese authorities state in their application that the USD 520 million can be proven to originate from the frigate affair.
On 2 February 2007, with the express consent of the two account-holders concerned, the competent Federal Examining Magistrate ordered the return of USD 34 million to Taiwan. However, he made the repayment conditional upon assurances from the Taiwanese authorities that legal proceedings against the two persons in question would comply with human rights principles.
In its ruling of 1 May 2007, the Federal Office of Justice determined that the guarantee provided in April by the Taiwanese Minister of Justice was sufficient to fulfil the Federal Examining Magistrate's conditions. Once this ruling had become legally enforceable, notice could be given on the fixed-term deposits in which the assets were held.
The assets were finally transferred to the Taiwanese judicial authorities today.
The remaining assets are still frozen. A decision on their handover will be made by the Federal Examining Magistrate in a second phase in proceedings. Specifically, he must examine whether or not these assets are clearly of criminal origin - in which case they can be handed over to Taiwan without the need for a recovery order - or if their handover should be linked to other conditions under Swiss law. (ends)
Swiss Return Funds to Taiwan In Frigate Scandal
(Source: Swiss Information Service; issued June 13, 2007)
Switzerland has returned US$34 million ($42.3 million) to Taiwan in connection with a corruption case on the sale of frigates to Taiwan by a French company. The justice ministry confirmed on Wednesday that proceedings for an additional US$490 million blocked in Swiss bank accounts were continuing.
The affair, dating back to 1991, involves the controversial $2.5 billion (SFr3.25 billion) sale of six Lafayette frigates to Taiwan by the French former state-owned firm, Elf Aquitaine.
It is alleged that Elf Aquitaine, via another French firm, Thomson-CSF, paid bribes to persuade French and Taiwanese authorities to approve the sale of the warships.
Both Switzerland and Liechtenstein have blocked funds in accounts allegedly linked to the case.
According to Paul Perraudin, the federal examining magistrate, the US$34 million was handed back as a result of legal aid by Switzerland and with the express consent of two account holders.
The repayment was made "conditional upon assurances from the Taiwanese authorities that legal proceedings against the two persons in question would comply with human rights principles," the magistrate said in a statement. The justice ministry considered the guarantees sufficient, he added.
Perraudin refused to identify the two owners of the US$34 million, but told the Associated Press that one of them was a Taiwanese public official.
The money does not belong to the family of fugitive arms dealer Wang Chuan-pu, who fled Taiwan in 1993 after the frigate deal turned into a scandal, Perraudin said.
Wang was a local agent for Thomson-CSF. He fled Taiwan following the death of a navy captain, who was widely believed to have been murdered when he was about to blow the whistle on colleagues for allegedly taking kickbacks in the Lafayette deal.
A large part of the remaining US$490 million belongs to Wang's bank accounts. Perraudin said he will decide later whether to release the money.
Taiwan has charged Wang with murder, corruption, money-laundering and fraud. A Taiwan court issued a warrant for Wang's arrest but he went into exile first in the United States and later in Europe.
The investigations into the arms scandal began when Taiwanese authorities concluded from the inflated price that the deal constituted a serious case of international corruption.
France, Liechtenstein and Taiwan, investigating whether the case had violated their laws, asked Switzerland to hand over the bank documents to further their investigations.