by Matthew Strong
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Taiwan High Prosecutors Office has overturned a decision by Taoyuan prosecutors and reopened an investigation into the tour of Apache attack helicopters by civilians, with charges of treason likely, reports said Friday.
On March 29, Lieutenant Colonel Lao Nai-cheng, deputy head of the Army’s helicopter squadron at a base in Longtan, Taoyuan City, gave a tour to more than 20 unauthorized civilians. One of the guests, entertainer Janet Lee, posted pictures on her Facebook page of her posing in front of an Apache AH-64E helicopter and sitting inside the cockpit at the commands, resulting in a public scandal.
More consternation followed when the Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office concluded its investigation in August by deciding not to file charges against 15 suspects. Its main reasoning was based on the contention that the Longtan base was not really a sensitive installation, and that the visit therefore did not amount to a serious breach of security. In the wake of that decision, several private groups announced they would file applications for citizens to tour the base and see the helicopters.
However, the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office reviewed the case and reached the opposite conclusion, reports said Friday. According to the Chinese-language Apple Daily, the office reasoned the people involved in the Apache case violated military secrecy laws and could therefore be charged with treason-related offenses.
Since such cases cannot be handled by district-level prosecutors, the High Prosecutors Office itself will deal with it, reports said.
In the wake of the scandal, Lao was disciplined and removed from his position at the helicopter base, as were several other officers investigated.
Security at military installations has been a touchy subject, especially in the light of reports of Chinese tourists trying to enter bases to take pictures of planes and other sophisticated defense equipment.