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Taiwan gains right to recover funds stolen by diplomatic broker

LOS ANGELES--Taiwan has won the right in the United States to recover funds allegedly stolen by a diplomatic broker, after the Los Angeles High Court upheld a verdict by a Singaporean court that the money must be returned.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) launched legal action in the U.S. last year to retrieve a sum of US$29.8 million that was handed to Ching Chi-ju in 2006 to broker diplomatic ties with Papua New Guinea.

Ching, a Taiwan national who holds a U.S. passport, and a Singaporean citizen Wu Shih-tsai were commissioned by the MOFA to serve as middlemen in the diplomatic effort.

The MOFA transferred US$29.8 million to a joint account in Singapore, held in the two men's name, for use as “financial aid” to Papua New Guinea. However, the money was siphoned off, while no progress was made in the diplomatic initiative, according to Taiwan's high court judges.

The scandal was exposed during the last few months of the administration led by former President Chen Shui-bian in 2008.

The MOFA filed legal action in Singapore and won a high court ruling there in 2010 that Wu and Ching should return the money to Taiwan's government, which has since succeeded in retrieving US$12.9 million of the total.

Wu was imprisoned in Taiwan for breach of trust in another case, while Ching is at large in the U.S. and is believed to have transferred his assets to his children to avoid the consequences of the Singaporean High Court ruling.

In late 2011, the MOFA filed a lawsuit with the Los Angeles High Court to have the Singaporean verdict validated in the U.S. and to request an annulment of Ching's application to transfer ownership of his property to his family.

The Los Angeles court ruled several weeks ago to recognize the Singaporean verdict, allowing the Taiwan government to legally recover the rest of the money held by Ching in the U.S.

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