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12 more Army officers punished over Apache scandal

2015/04/07 19:22:10

Taipei, April 7 (CNA) Twelve more Army officers were punished Tuesday over a case in which an Army pilot gave a local TV personality and other civilians access to Taiwan's most advanced attack helicopter, the AH-64E Apache, in violation of the military's regulations on visitors to military bases.

The punishments result from a Ministry of National Defense investigation into the incident involving Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng (勞乃成), a former deputy head of a helicopter squadron in Taoyuan under the Army Aviation Special Forces Command, following an initial inquiry by the Army last week.

Among the 12 officers being punished are Maj. Gen. Wen Tien-yu (文天佑), director-general of the Army Aviation Special Forces Command's political welfare department, who was given a minor demerit, ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he (羅紹和), said at a news conference to announce the results of the investigation.

Wen is the highest-ranking officer among the 12. The 11 others received punishments ranging from minor demerits to reprimands, according to Luo.

The investigation found that Lao, a pilot in the Army's 601st Aviation Brigade, brought a group of people, including TV hostess Janet Lee (李蒨蓉) and her family and friends, to see the Apaches at their base in Longtan March 29 without approval from his superiors.

Some even boarded an Apache to take photos of the chopper. The case came to light after Lee posted four photos of the Army base tour on her Facebook page, including one of her in the chopper's cockpit, drawing media criticism of loose security in Taiwan's military.

Lao was also found to have worn a helmet-mounted display used with the Apache attack helicopter to a Halloween costume party held at his home last October after not returning the helmet following a training mission earlier in the month, the investigation found.

The ministry decided to give Lao another major demerit for bringing the Apache helmet home and wearing it to the private party, Luo said. Five other Army officers punished over the same case include Lt. Gen. Chen Chien-tsai (陳健財), commander of the Army Aviation Special Forces Command, who was given a reprimand, and Maj. Gen. Chien Tsung-yuan (簡聰淵), head of the 601st Aviation Brigade, who was given a minor demerit.

In the ministry's investigation, Chien was also found to have brought four friends and relatives to the Apache hangar Feb. 20 without approval from his superiors. He has been removed from his post, Luo said.

Following the Army's initial investigation last week, Lao was given a major demerit and removed from his post as deputy head of the helicopter squadron. Four other Army officers were also punished, including Chen and Chien, for lapses in internal management at the base.

Lao has now been given two major demerits for the two scandals, meaning that he will be forced to retire within the year, an Army officer said.

Lao has also been referred to Taoyuan prosecutors, who are investigating whether those who bring civilians to a military base housing advanced helicopters should face criminal charges.

Following the scandals, the ministry said it will stage a nationwide review of military discipline to reinforce the education of officers and soldiers to avoid similar incidents.

(By Elaine Hou)