TAIPEI, TAIWAN - Taiwan's Premier Wu Den-yih Tuesday pledged to retrieve nearly 30 million US dollars ($41.5 million) embezzled by two individuals who had promised to help the isolated island forge official ties with Papua New Guinea.
Wu spoke after Singapore's high court ruled Monday in favour of his government as it sought to get back the money, which the two Taiwan-born diplomatic brokers placed in their own bank accounts.
'The government will by no means relax in the pursuit of the country's dignity and interest,' the Taiwanese premier told reporters.
The scandal, which ended the careers of several ranking politicians on Taiwan, started in 2006 when the government under ex-president Chen Shui-bian paid 29.8 million US dollars to the two, Wu Shih-tsai and Ching Chi-ju.
The duo, who claimed to have good connections with officials in Papua New Guinea, appear not to have made any progress in bringing about ties, but still pocketed the money.
While they have not denied taking the money, they have dismissed charges of embezzlement, saying they considered the millions to be a commission for their efforts.
The Singapore court's ruling authorised Taiwanese government to seize about nine million US dollars frozen from their brokers' bank accounts in Singapore, Taiwan's foreign ministry said.
Wu, now a naturalised Singaporean citizen, is serving a jail term of two years and four months for the embezzlement, while Ching is believed to have fled to the United States.
Vice premier Chiou I-jen, foreign minister James Huang and vice defence minister Ko Chen-heng resigned in May 2008 after the scandal surfaced, although all three have denied any wrongdoing.