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Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Impeachments over Taiwan navy scandal
Taiwanese naval vesells
Officials have been accused of taking millions in kickbacks
A former Taiwanese naval commander and two retired officers have been formally reprimanded over a scandal surrounding the purchase of six French-built frigates in the early 1990s.


[The purchase] seriously affected the armed forces' combat capability and national security

Control Yuan report
Taiwan's government watchdog agency, the Control Yuan, said the abrupt decision to switch to French from South Korean frigates was "hurried and chaotic" according to the 60-page impeachment document.

Three other retired officers, including former premier Hau Pei-tsun, avoided impeachment which correspondents say would have caused a damaging political storm.

Officials on the Control Yuan's investigative committee said Mr Hau had disregarded proper weapons purchasing procedures when he ordered the switch. However a motion to impeach him was overruled on lack of evidence.

Mr Hau says his conscience is clear and is pressing the authorities to clear his name.

Combat capability

Taiwan navy
The report says the purchase was unneessary and far above the original budget
The decision to buy the six 3000-tonne Lafayette frigates represented a significant shift in Taipei's naval procurement policy with persistent allegations of high-level corruption behind the deal.

In its report the watchdog said the $2.8bn deal had "delayed the fleet's entry into service by many years and seriously affected the armed forces' combat capability and national security".

The three impeached men, former naval commander-in-chief Yeh Chang-tung, Lei Hsueh-ming, who was in charge of vessels management and Yao Nung-chung, who was in charge of weapons procurement, could face charges of neglect of duty

However, analysts say the impeachment is a largely symbolic gesture and the government is unlikely to take legal action against retired officers.

Whistleblower

The scandal first came to light in 1993 when the body of Captain Yin Ching-feng, head of the naval arms acquisition office, was found floating in the sea east of Taiwan.

According to reports Captain Yin had been ready to blow the whistle on bribes and other financial irregularities behind the controversial deal.

No-one has been charged over Captain Yin's death, although the navy's former commander-in-chief Chuang Ming-yao resigned shortly afterwards.

In June President Chen Shui-bian reopened the inquiry into allegations of kickbacks in the frigate deal as part of a promised crackdown on corruption.

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