Singaporean jailed in Taiwan cash-for-diplomacy scandal

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan's high court jailed a Singaporean man for three years and 10 months on Tuesday over a case involving the alleged embezzlement of $30 million in diplomatic funds.

Wu Shih-tsai, a naturalised Singaporean citizen originally from Taiwan, was barred from appealing after the final sentencing, which added six months to a sentence previously handed down by a district court.

Wu and his business partner Ching Chi-ju were entrusted with the money by Taiwan's foreign ministry to help forge ties with Papua New Guinea in 2006, as both claimed to have good connections with officials there.

Taiwanese authorities suspect both of stealing the cash after it was wired to their joint account by the government.

While the duo have not denied taking the money, they have dismissed charges of embezzlement.

They said they considered the millions to be a commission for their efforts, although the scandal surfaced when it emerged that Papua New Guinea had made no attempt to switch its diplomatic recognition from Beijing to Taipei.

Wu is already serving a jail term of two years and six months for forgery, while Ching is believed to have fled to the United States.

Then vice-premier Chiou I-jen, foreign minister James Huang and vice-defence minister Ko Chen-heng resigned in May 2008 over the scandal, although all three have denied any wrongdoing.

Diplomatic recognition is a big issue in Taiwan, which is formally recognised by only 23 countries as China considers the island part of its territory.