Taiwan Apache scandal: Family members apologise on behalf of son

TAIPEI - Family members of Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng, who was caught at the centre of the ongoing Apache scandal, yesterday apologised to the public over Lao's alleged role in allowing civilians to take photographs of the AH-64E Apache helicopter without undergoing proper procedures.

With tears in their eyes, Lao Tse-kang and Lao Nai-hui, father and the elder sister of Lao, respectively, yesterday bowed in front of cameras as they apologised on Lao's behalf during a press conference in Taipei.

A former deputy chief of staff to the R.O.C. Army, Lao Tse-kang apologised to the public over his son's behaviour, which he said has "seriously damaged the image of the R.O.C. Armed Forces and led to many senior military officials being punished."

"I felt deep remorse for letting down my country, the R.O.C. Armed Forces and all military personnel (because of the incident)" Lao Tse-kang said.

He noted that the investigation regarding his son's alleged involvement in the case is still ongoing and he has full respect for the probe results no matter what they might be.

Lao Tse-kang said he hopes that his son can repent for his mistake and continue to devote himself to his specialty in the military.

If the military ultimately decided to discharge him from his service, Lao Tse-kang said he hopes the younger Lao will donate his entire retirement pension to charity if he can still receive his pension by then.

The press conference was held in the wake of public anger over the scandal when Lao was found to have allegedly allowed local TV personality Janet Lee and other civilians access to the AH-64E Apache late last month, even allowing some to wear a NT$2 million (S$87,000) tactical helmet.

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 found 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 deputy head of a helicopter squadron in Taoyuan under the Army Aviation Special Forces Command, has since been removed from his post and is currently under military and prosecutors investigation.

'My brother a decent person'

Commenting on the helmet incident, Lao's elder sister Lao Nai-hui yesterday stressed that the party was in fact a "family reunion" and held as a Halloween party for children of the family, saying that Lao was not attending a party at a night club.

She also noted that her younger brother is a decent person. She said public scrutiny has put Lao's whole family in the spotlight. She will let the judges determine whether her brother should take full responsibility for the incident.

But she also hopes that the legal system will ultimately restore Lao's integrity if it later proves his innocence.

Meanwhile, Lao Tse-kang yesterday confirmed that he had previously been doing business in China following retirement.

But he noted that he had left the job three years ago and he did not break a travel ban imposed on retired military personnel.

There is currently a ban on travel to China for retired military personnel who had access to confidential military intelligence during their service.

The extent of travel restrictions is based on the person's rank and on the level of sensitivity of information the person was exposed to.