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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Former defense head to be questioned over information leak

ROC Central News Agency

2008-03-26 20:51:31

    Taipei, March 26 (CNA) The controversy over a private arms firm dominated a legislative committee meeting Wednesday, amid reports that the military will soon investigate several of its ranking officials, including former Minister of National Defense Lee Tien-yu, on matters related to the firm.

    The heated discussion came after the local China Times newspaper reported Wednesday that Minister of National Defense Tsai Ming-shian has requested a probe into the firm, Taiwan Goal, to determine who had leaked information on the company's secret arms talks with France to opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislators. The paper stated that the probe will not touch on suspected irregularities regarding the company itself, as was expected by the public.

    Former minister Lee, Deputy Minister of National Defense Lin Cheng-yi and Wu Wei-jung, director-general of the MND's Armament Bureau, will be questioned soon over the leak, the report said, alleging that the MND had engaged in a "purge" within the military under the facade of an inquiry.

    Lin told the legislative committee that Minister Tsai Ming-shian had asked the MND's General Political Warfare Bureau and the Department of Military Justice to investigate two issues -- whether the company Taiwan Goal had been launched by a legal process, and whether anyone in the military had leaked information about the arms talks with France.

    KMT lawmakers reportedly obtained information that Taiwan Goal was engaged in secret talks with France on the procurement of eight minehunter vessels, the newest multi-role fighter aircraft "Rafale," weaponry for the La Fayette class frigate, and devices required to upgrade the Mirage fighter jet. The lawmakers also allegedly learned that Wu Wei-jung had visited France on missions connected to the planned arms purchase.

    KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-ming took issue with the decision to investigate the leak rather than the company itself, while Wu

    Tai-jan, director of the Department of Military Justice, said that both issues were under investigation and that he had no further comment.

    The matter first came to light in a China Times report in mid-February. The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) later confirmed that Taiwan Goal had registered on Jan. 28 as a private company, with capital of NT$1 billion (US$31.15 million) and paid-in capital totaling NT$80 million.

    Wu Nai-jen, a heavyweight of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and head of China Steel Machinery Corp., serves as chairman of the company.

    MOEA data also shows that Taiwan Goal has a seven-member board of directors, with three seats held by the MND, which has pledged to contribute 45 percent of the capital, making it the largest shareholder in the company.

    The launch of the company drew flak from opposition lawmakers, who questioned whether it had been registered as a private firm to avoid legislative oversight, although most of its funding had come from the MND or government affiliated companies.

    They also said they had misgivings about Wu, who has no background in arms purchasing, heading the company.

    In light of the controversy surrounding the company, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung, has said that it will no longer receive government funding.

    Wu also announced that he would soon disband the company.

(By Lilian Wu)

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