Flights to Avoid Prosecution Must Be Stopped
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 17, 2012
Summary: Convicted criminals fleeing the country as the result of loopholes in the justice system poses a problem. People from all segments of society are concerned. According to Bureau of Investigation Fugitive Tracking Unit data, at least 192 well known criminals, plus nearly one thousand other major criminals, have already fled overseas. This constitutes a serious setback to judicial credibility. The government must track them down through various channels. It must remedy the situation by putting an end to judicial loopholes.
Full Text below:
Former legislators Luo Fu-chu and Chiang Lian-fu, also known as the "two Fus," have fled the country, one after the other, before they could be taken to prison. Convicted criminals fleeing the country as the result of loopholes in the justice system poses a problem. People from all segments of society are concerned. According to Bureau of Investigation Fugitive Tracking Unit data, at least 192 well known criminals, plus nearly one thousand other major criminals, have already fled overseas. This constitutes a serious setback to judicial credibility. The government must track them down through various channels. It must remedy the situation by putting an end to judicial loopholes.
Most of these fugitives flee to the Mainland, the United States, Canada, and Southeast Asia. Mainland China is a favorite with fugitives due to language, culture, and geographical proximity. Fugitives to the Mainland include former Tuntex president Chen You-hao, former Kozo Group president Tseng Cheng-jen, former Legislative Yuan President Liu Sung-fan, former legislators Wang Chi-hsiung, Ho Chih-hui, and "White Wolf" Chang An-lo. Some have gone into hiding. Others are living high-profile second lives. Chen You-hao is suspected of embezzling $600 billion NT and investing in on the Mainland, in the Sinopec Group. In Xiamen, he pays annual taxes in excess of 100 million RMB. His debts meanwhile, remain on Taiwan. His crimes and his punishment remain on Taiwan. He has made a glorious comeback on the Mainland. He has gotten a fresh start. When the people on Taiwan witness this, how can they feel anything but disgust?
Others have fled to the United States, Canada or Europe. Most of these are white collar criminals who already obtained local passports or the right of permanent residence. These people once had family fortunes. They are protected by their legal status as immigrants, and by tedious and lengthy legal procedures. Taipei has no extradition agreements with these countries. These fugitives know Taipei cannot touch them.
Examples include former Rebar Group chairman Wang You-cheng and his wife, Ching Chi-jiu who embezzled public funds in the PNG corruption scandal, and Huang Fang-yan, former vice president of Shin Kong Hospital, who is suspected of laundering money for the Chen family. He is reportedly living in the lap of luxury in Los Angeles. Some are hiding in Canada. JWOS Group chairman Zhang Wanli and his son siphoned off tens of billions of dollars worth of school property. Former National Security Bureau cashier Liu Kuan-chun and his wife are suspected of embezzling 190 million dollars in public funds in the Feng Tian and Dang Yang scandals. The amount of money these people have embezzled is astonishing.
Others chose to flee to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Most of these fugitives are drug dealers and major criminals. Altogether, there are 192 of them. One hundred twenty-five of them are guilty of white collar crimes. Thirty-three of them are guilty of political corruption. These notorious criminals can order up the weather. Their numbers are startling. No matter how much they pocket in Taiwan, they are free and clear as soon as they flee overseas. Who knows how many faceless petty criminals have fled overseas to avoid prosecution.
Many people do not understand, Taipei and Beijing have joint crime-fighting and legal assistance mechanisms. Cross-Strait relations have improved considerably in recent years. So why don't these mechanisms work when we need to catch wanted criminals? Forget the small fry. Chen You-hao is openly conducting business on the Mainland. Why don't we demand that the cross-Strait cooperation mechanism extradite him? The answer is that Taipei's law enforcement entities cannot exercise authority on the Mainland. Tracking down and arresting these criminals requires assistance from Beijing. Watching as a major criminal thumbs his nose at the law makes people wonder about the effectiveness of cross-Strait reconciliation.
The loopholes in the legal system are huge. For the justice system on Taiwan, this is a huge irony. A justice system must punish evildoers to maintain public confidence in the social system. Universal respect for the rule of law ensures social stability and a feeling of security. But we cavalierly allow criminals to flee. They escape legal consequences. They even thumb their noses at us from abroad. We can do nothing about it, As a result, the public is disillusioned with the justice system. Once the justice system loses its credibility, public cooperation and support for law enforcement is no longer forthcoming. An important social institution will be eroded.
Not long ago, word emerged that Luo Fu-chu was about to flee. Yet prosecutors and police did nothing. The day Luo was to be taken to prison, they ostentatiously issued an arrest warrant and sent marshals to take him into custody. All the while however, everyone knew it was all for nothing. Nevertheless they followed the script to the letter. They seemed to be putting on a show for the public. Perhaps they were playing dumb. Perhaps they were taking the public for fools. Perhaps they were merely amusing themselves. In any event, the justice system was turned into a joke. Did Luo Fu-chu have a good belly laugh while watching the news from the safety of the Mainland? All we know is many people on Taiwan swore up a storm.
The Judicial Yuan has responded. It has urged the Legislative Yuan to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure, When a court sentences someone to over two years imprisonment, they no longer need to wait until the defendant has heard the verdict. Prosecutors will be able to skip the existing summons and custody procedures. They will be able to take the accused into custody and begin monitoring his or her movements. Electronic surveillance and convict custody are not included in the amended law however. Enforcement of the law must strike a balance with protection of human rights, But overly lenient treatment of potential flight risks also harms society. The law should be amended as soon as possible. Flights to avoid prosecution must be prevented. Prosecutors and police must be able to implement the law. Only then will we know whether it actually works.