Taiwan’s vice PM, foreign minister quit

Taipei, May 6:

Taiwan’s vice premier and its foreign minister resigned today to shoulder responsibility for the island’s worst diplomatic scandal involving the alleged embezzlement of $30 million.

Vice Premier Chiou I-jen told a press conference he was standing down while an investigation took place.

“I am resigning to smooth the judicial investigation of the case and hope it will return me my innocence,” Chiou said.

Chiou has admitted introducing one of two businessmen accused of pocketing the money to Foreign Minister James Huang, but denies any involvement in embezzling. Separately, Huang also tendered his resignation, which was also accepted by Premier Chang Chun-hsiung.

“I regret the event has caused great damage to the country, and I apologise to the people,” Huang told reporters. “As the foreign minister, I have to take responsibility,” he said about an hour after Chiou announced his resignation.

Their resignations came after their homes and offices were raided by prosecutors. TV images showed prosecutors searching the homes and offices of vice defence minister Ko Chen-heng in Taipei, though he remains in office.

The scandal surfaced only last week, when Singapore’s high court approved Taiwan’s request to freeze the joint bank account of two businessmen who were to serve as “intermediaries” to help Taipei forge ties with Papua New Guinea.

Authorities allege Singaporean Wu Shih-tsai and Taiwanese Ching Chi-ju took the missing $30 million, claims Wu denies.