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Bail denied, fugitive Dean claims credit for capture

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In a bold swipe at the Ministry of Justice's cross-border dragnet that claimed his capture, British fugitive Zain Taj Dean (林克穎), who was again denied bail Wednesday ahead of an extradition hearing in Scotland, says he knows the identity of the key informant that led to his arrest — himself.

Dean, who last summer fled a prison term in Taiwan claiming he was framed in a deadly DUI hit-and-run, said he disclosed his whereabouts to Taiwan's representative office earlier this year as a bargaining chip for a retrial.

“I had told the Taipei authorities where I was by phoning the Taipei office in the UK with the intention of negotiating a return and fair trial,” Dean said in a statement relayed by human rights activist Linda Gail Arrigo, former wife of ex-DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德).

Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡), Taipei's representative to the UK, minced no words in his denial of the claim, dismissing it as a hollow bid for judicial leniency. “He never told us where he was — never, ever, never, never,” said Shen, while confirming he did receive email correspondence from Dean which made no reference to his location.

The Ministry of Justice's yearlong hunt for the on-the-lam British businessman — tracing him from Scotland to a Swiss hideout — culminated on Oct. 17, when he was arrested by Scottish authorities in Edinburgh, where he was renting an apartment under his own name.

A month-long delay in the disclosure of Dean's capture, however baffling, offered a counterpoint to the chapter closing elsewhere. Dean's compatriot accomplice, Christopher David Churcher, was escorted that day to the airport by immigration police, after his seven-month sentence for supplying the passport Dean used to slip incognito past customs was commuted. Churcher did it purely in the name of justice, he said, but later pocketed a kickback.

In January, a Sheriff Court judge will consider whether the court judgments may have been marred by a lack of evidence, including street-camera footage from along the four-mile route where the accident took place. Dean claims it would have proven he was merely a valet-chauffeured passenger, asleep when Huang Jun-de, 32, was fatally struck while riding a scooter he had borrowed from his aunt.

Since brokering a memorandum of understanding with the UK, which allows the extradition request to proceed without an existing treaty, Minister of Justice Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) expressed optimism over Dean's return that has been cautious elsewhere, even among firebrands that condemned the former CEO of NCL Media Taiwan.

“The Ministry of Justice is working hard,” said Taipei city councilman Lin Rui-tu (林瑞圖) to The China Post, “but the chances are low and my hopes aren't very high.”

Lin suspects that Dean's attorney may draw out the proceedings to invoke a discretionary “passage of time” clause under the UK-wide Extradition Act of 2003.

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