Publication: AFP Paris Issued: Date: 2004-05-26 Reporter:

France Declassifies Secret Taiwan Frigate Papers



AFP Paris

Date 2004-05-26

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The French defence ministry on Wednesday said it was partially declassifying 46 documents relating to the controversial sale of six French warships to Taiwan in 1991.

The documents concern the mission of Thierry Imbot, a French intelligence agent who was charged with following the warships deal, which allegedly saw millions of dollars handed out as commissions to middlemen and politicians.

Imbot died in suspicious circumstances in 2000 having told his father - a former intelligence chief - that large amounts of money had been spent on commissions.

He died after falling from the fourth floor of his building, which the authorities said at the time was accidental. However his father has said that his body landed too far from the building for this to be the case.

The ministry said the 46 documents had been sent to Renaud van Ruymbeke and Dominique de Talance, the magistrates investigating the corruption allegations.

Earlier this month, Switzerland said it would transfer to France documents relating to the sale, after a court rejected an appeal by Taiwanese businessman Andrew Wang who is suspected of organising massive rake-offs.

Responding to a request by the two French judges, the Federal Tribunal - Switzerland's highest court - decided there was sufficient evidence to implicate Wang in the affair and overruled his bid to keep the bank documents under wraps.

The French judicial probe was opened in 2001 into claims that a large part of the USD 2.8 billion (EUR 2.37 billion) paid by Taiwan for the six frigates in 1991 went on commissions to middlemen, politicians and military officers in Taiwan, China and France.

The investigation had run into serious difficulties because of decisions by successive French governments to withhold documents on grounds of official secrecy.

With acknowledgement to AFP Paris.