French inquiry into Taiwan frigates scandal hits snag
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Last Updated: Saturday, August 05, 2006, 00:00
Paris, Aug 05: The investigation into alleged kickbacks paid to French officials for the 2.8 billion-dollar sale of French-made frigates to Taiwan in 1991 has hit another wall after authorities refused to release top-secret defence documents.

The decision by the Consultative Commission on National Defence Secrets (CCSDN) not to release documents requested by investigating magistrates was made on July 21 but only published in France's official journal today.

Finance Minister Thierry Breton holds the final decision on whether to fulfil the requests of judges Renaud Van Ruymbeke and Xaviere Simeoni who head the inquiry, but the CCSDN's decisions are almost always followed.

The Finance Ministry today refused to comment on the case.

The latest rejection was seen as "political obstruction to the work of the courts", a source close to the investigation said.

The inquiry, launched in 2001, is probing accusations that a large part of the 2.8 billion dollars paid by Taiwan for six French-made frigates 15 years ago went on commissions to middlemen, politicians and military officers in Taiwan, China and France.

Taiwan's highest anti-graft body has indicated that as much as 400 million dollars in bribes for the warships built by France's Thomson-CSF (now Thales) might have been paid.

Allegations of backhanders emerged after the body of the officer who ran the Taiwanese navy's acquisition office was found floating in the sea off the island's east coast in 1993.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, August 05, 2006, 00:00

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