French inquiry into Taiwan frigates scandal hits snag

Last Updated: Saturday, August 5, 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 5, 2006 - 00:00
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