7 May 2008

Two more govt Ministers in Taiwan resign over money to PNG

9:00 am on 7 May 2008

Three Taiwanese ministers including the vice premier have resigned over the island's worst diplomatic scandal involving the alleged embezzlement of 30 million US dollars.

Vice Premier Chiou I-jen was the first to go on Monday, followed an hour later by Foreign Minister James Huang.

Later that day, the defence ministry announced in a statement Vice Defence Minister Ko Chen-heng had also resigned.

All three had their offices and homes in Taipei raided by prosecutors prior to their resignations, and despite standing down each denied embezzling any of the money.

The scandal surfaced only last week, when Singapore's high court approved Taiwan's request to freeze the joint bank account of two businessmen who were to serve as "intermediaries" to help Taipei forge ties with Papua New Guinea.

Authorities allege Singaporean Wu Shih-tsai and Taiwanese Ching Chi-ju took the missing 30 million dollars, claims Wu denies.

The whereabouts of Ching, a Taiwan citizen who also has a US passport, is unknown, while Wu has been barred from leaving Taiwan.

The scandal has rocked the island in the last weeks of outgoing President Chen Shui-bian's administration.