No charges for 15 involved in Apache scandal: prosecutors
Prosecutors yesterday decided not to press charges against any of the 15 individuals listed as potential defendants in a high-profile case where a group of civilians, led by a military chopper pilot, entered an Army base in March to take photographs of an AH-64E Apache helicopter without undergoing proper procedures.
Citing a lack of evidence proving that any of the potential defendants, including pilot Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng ( ) and local TV personality Janet Lee ( ), had violated laws and leaked confidential national security information, the Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office said they decided not to indict them.
The controversial visit took place on March 29 at the Army Aviation Special Forces 601st Brigade in Taoyuan, where Lao was found to have allowed Lee and other civilians access to the AH-64E Apache, and even allowed them to sit inside the cockpit to take photographs.
The case came to light after Lee posted photos of the tour on her Facebook page, drawing media criticism of loose security in Taiwan’s military.
It was also later discovered that Lao had not returned an Apache flight helmet after a training mission last October, but had worn it as part of a Halloween costume at a party at his home. Lao, the former deputy head of a helicopter squadron in the brigade, has since been removed from his post and is currently under suspension.
More than 20 senior military officers were also given administrative punishments by the Army over negligence in overseeing Lao, following the incident.
The Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office later launched its own probe and listed 15 individuals as potential defendants to check whether any violated regulations on visitors to military bases.
The prosecutors yesterday said they could not indict these people because the 601st Brigade is not listed as a vital area by the Ministry of National Defense (MND).
Therefore, those involved did not violate laws such as the Vital Area Regulations and the Classified National Security Information Protection Act, even though they did indeed take photos of the AH-64E Apache helicopter during the trip.
With regard to Lao’s actions in taking his helmet home, prosecutors said that as a chopper pilot, he is entitled to do so.
MND’s Respect and Gratitude
Asked to comment, the MND yes- terday expressed gratitude and said it has full respect for the prosecutors’ decision not to indict any of those involved.
Military spokesman Luo Shao-ho ( ) thanked the Taoyuan prosecutors for conducting a thorough investigation into the case, which ultimately found that no one had violated laws during the controversial visit.
However, he noted that military personal should set higher moral standards and should learn from the incident even though they were later found not to be in violation of related laws.
The incident severely damaged the image of the R.O.C. Armed Forces as a whole and therefore the MND respects the Army Command’s decision to suspend Lao and levy punishments on other military personnel because of the incident, he said.