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New Taipei probes tank procurement irregularities

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A military tank brigade base in Taichung was searched yesterday morning by the New Taipei District Prosecutors' Office (NTDPO, 新北市地檢署) over suspicion of illegal involvement in a procurement scandal; the office of a contract manufacturer in Taipei was also under investigation, according to prosecutors.

The NTDPO received a report on the procurement scandal months ago, stating that suspicious activity was observed in relation to the annual procurement of new parts for tanks. A contractor was hired to provide new imported parts to the Army, but renovated, second-hand parts were used instead of real ones.

According to prosecutors, the informer also said that the officer responsible for the procurement was already aware of the situation but did not report it to his superiors. The officer was suspected of having colluded with the contractor for his own illegal benefit.

After the NTDPO searched the Taichung base as well as the contractor's office in Taipei, prosecutors seized a large amount of documents related to the scandal. The investigation continued all day yesterday and many officers and contractors were questioned.

Nine Army Detention Centers Back in Operation

After miscellaneous adjustments and facility improvements, nine military detention centers have recently been put back into operation. These centers had been closed by the Ministry of National Defense (MND, 國防部) after the death of Corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) from the 542nd Armored Brigade. However, Military Chief Inspector Hsia Fu-hua (夏復華) said no one has been sent to the detention centers for punishment so far. Although there were some disciplinary violations by soldiers during this period, they were all punished by other measures, the Army said.

The detention centers are more humanitarian after the completion of recent improvements, Army officials said. The guards of the centers are from the gendarmerie and must complete a two-week training course as well as obtain a certificate to serve in their positions.

There are in total 18 detention centers utilized by the Army, half of which are currently in use. MND spokesman Lo Shao-he (羅紹和) said the judgment of superior officers should be respected whether they decide to send soldiers to detention rooms or not.

Kuomintang Legislator Lu Hsueh-Chang (呂學樟) said the revision of the Habeas Corpus Act (提審法) passed its latest reading. If it passes its third reading, any soldier facing detention can apply for an arraignment in order to avoid other unfortunate cases like that of Corporal Hung, he said.

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