Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Arrest in Taiwan corruption probe

Taiwan map

Police in Taiwan have arrested a former deputy prime minister, Chiou I-Jen, for alleged corruption.

He is suspected of embezzling about $500,000 (308,000) from diplomatic funds four years ago.

Taiwan is known to use these diplomatic funds as an inducement for smaller nations to give it, rather than China, diplomatic recognition.

Mr Chiou is alleged to have embezzled the money in 2004, when he was head of Taiwan's top security agency.

A court official in Taipei said cheques issued to Mr Chiou were found to have been cashed in foreign casinos.

Expensive competition

Mr Chiou resigned from the government in May 2008, over another instance of misappropriation of diplomatic funds - although that time by two subordinates in his office.

Mr Chiou and then foreign minister James Huang resigned to take responsibility for the loss of $30m earmarked to help secure diplomatic recognition from Papua New Guinea.

Former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian is the target of other corruption enquiries, begun when he lost presidential immunity at the inauguration of his rival, Ma Ying-jeou, in May.

Both China and Taiwan are often accused of using chequebook diplomacy to establish political friendships, especially in the South Pacific, Caribbean and parts of Africa.

The rivalry stems from the Chinese civil war.

After the Communist victory in 1949, their defeated foes, the Kuomintang, fled to Taiwan and set up a rival government.

Initially recognised by the UN and many Western governments, Taipei lost its status to Beijing during the 1970s.

Beijing now opposes any moves for greater recognition of Taiwan as a separate entity, and fewer than 30 nations still have formal diplomatic ties with Taipei.

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