Diplomat’s visa bribery scandal sentence commuted to 10 years

Taipei-The Taiwan High Court on Wednesday commuted from 12 years to 10 years the jail sentence of Hsiao Yu-wen (???), a former secretary at Taiwan's representative office in Vietnam, for corruption in a student visa bribery scandal.

According to the court ruling, Hsiao was found guilty on 27 counts of profiteering and of having property he could not account for. His assets acquired via illegal means, including 83 Louis Vuitton bags and accessories and cash funds of over US$97,000, were confiscated.

Hsiao's accomplice Tsao Pao-lin (???), a Taiwanese visa broker operating in Vietnam, was sentenced to 18 months for document forgery, commuted from the original penalty of two years in prison handed down in the first trial by the Taipei District Court.

The rulings can still be appealed.

The commutations were made based on evidence that Hsiao was innocent of the forgery charge, and that most of Tsao's offenses occurred in Vietnam's capital Hanoi, which is outside Taiwan's jurisdiction, the ruling said.

The prosecution said Hsiao was found to be working in collusion with Tsao to approve Republic of China student visas for unqualified Vietnamese applicants seeking to study in Taiwan, in exchange for cash benefits.

For Tsao's part, he was found to have counterfeited financial and Mandarin Chinese proficiency certificates for visa applicants.

During their investigation, prosecutors found that Hsiao had handled 27 student visa cases, in each case offering the broker US$1,000 to US$4,500 for the forged documents.

After the students entered a school, Hsiao charged the schools a 10 percent fee -- which stood at NT$2,000-NT$3,000 in each case -- as a brokerage cost.

Hsiao was also found to have paid US$75,585 for housing rent in Vietnam from May 2010 to January 2013, but the payments were not taken from his salary account. He also purchased a total of 83 LV luxury products at a total cost of 1.2 billion Vietnamese dong (US$52,800).

The prosecution said Hsiao failed to detail the sources of his finances and the funds for his generous spending on housing and luxury goods while his salary was his only verifiable source of income.

The scandal first came to light in 2014 and on Dec. 28, 2016 the Taipei District Court sentenced Hsiao to 12 years in prison on charges of profiteering and owning property of unknown origin -- both violations of the Anti-Corruption Act -- while sentencing Tsao to two years in jail for forgery.

Minister of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (???) declined to comment, saying that the ministry does not make comments on pending judicial cases.

Hsiao, who was transferred back to Taipei after the ministry discovered abnormalities in the issuance of visas processed by Hsiao in early 2013, currently remains working at the MOFA, Wang noted, adding that the ministry will not address the case until the final ruling.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel