Singaporean denies pocketing millions of Taiwan's "diplomacy" money

A Singaporean man accused of fraud in connection with Taiwan's failed attempt to win diplomatic recognition from Papua New Guinea (PNG) said Saturday that he did not pocket 29.8 million US dollars in government funds, the dpa reported.

At a news conference in Taipei, Singaporean businessman Wu Shih- tsai said the 29.8 million US dollars entrusted to him and Taiwanese negotiator Ching Chi-ju was misappropriated solely by Ching.

Wu however took issue with Taiwan's claim that he and Ching had not accomplished their task, saying PNG agreed to launch diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but Taiwan's Foreign Minister James Huang refused to sign the communique.

In response, Foreign Minister Huang said he did not approve the launching of ties with PNG because the Pacific island state's prime minister had not authorized it.

Although PNG's foreign minister led a delegation to Taipei in October 2007 to launch ties, the delegation did not have written authorization from the prime minister, Huang said.

The diplomatic bungle occurred in 2006 when Huang asked Wu and Ching - a US passport holder - to persuade PNG to drop the People's Republic of China and recognize Taiwan in exchange for 30 million US dollars in aid.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry remitted 29.8 million US dollars into Wu and Ching's joint account in Singapore's OCBC bank, as 200,000 US dollars had been deducted from the sum as a working fund for the pair.

Wu and Ching were asked to withdraw the fund only after the deal had succeeded, but were required to return the money to Taiwan should the deal have failed.

When the deal had not succeeded by December 2006, Taipei asked Wu and Ching to end the talks and return the money.

When Taiwan diplomatic escorted the pair to Singapore to withdraw the money, Ching fled from a Singapore hotel and Wu was brought back to Taiwan to face prosecution on charges of embezzlement and breach of trust.

According to Huang, Taiwan has not ruled out suing OCBC for refusing a Foreign Ministry request to transfer the money from Wu and Ching's joint account to that of a Taiwanese diplomat. OCBC cited lack of consent from the joint account holders, Wu and Ching.

The Taiwanese government had kept the scandal secret until Thursday, when Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao reported Taiwan's case against Wu and Ching in a Singapore High Court.

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