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Military yet to decide on appeal after loss in Lafayette compensation case

The China Post with CNA--The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday said it has not yet decided whether to appeal a verdict after it lost a civil lawsuit Thursday that sought compensation from individuals sentenced for taking bribes during the military's purchase of Lafayette frigates from France in the 1990s.

The military will make its final decision after it receives official notification from the Taipei District Court, the MND said in a statement.

The MND took former Navy Captain Kuo Li-heng (郭力恆), his brother Kuo Wen-tien (郭問天) and arms dealer Andrew Wang (汪傳浦) to court in 2007 to seek US$880 million in compensation for extra expenses accrued during the purchase of the warships.

The ministry also claimed at the time that the bribery case had disgraced the country's armed forces, asking those accused to offer monetary compensation for the dishonor.

However, the Taipei District Court ruled Thursday against the MND, saying that the case had already passed the statute of limitations for compensation requests, which stands at two years following an incident.

The probe into the corruption case was first launched in 2002 by the Control Yuan, the government watchdog responsible for investigating and censuring irregular behavior by public servants, the court said.

The court ruled that as the MND did not take the case to court until five years after the probe began, it thus no longer had the right to ask for compensation.

The MND could still appeal to the Taiwan High Court.

The 1991 procurement of six naval frigates by the Navy from the French company Thomson-CSF, was complicated by a procurement kickback scandal that came to light after the body of Navy Officer Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓) was found dead at sea off northern Taiwan in December 1993.

Yin was widely suspected to have been murdered because he was about to blow the whistle on the kickback scandal.

In 2010, Kuo Li-heng was sentenced to 15 years in prison for taking bribes, while his brother Kuo Wen-tien, guilty of helping launder money that was deposited in the pair's bank accounts in Switzerland, was sentenced to two years in prison.

Wang, who remains at large, has been wanted by the Taiwanese authorities on murder charges since September 2000.

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