Taiwanese diplomat did not underpay maid: MOFA

Taipei, Nov. 14 (CNA) A preliminary government investigation has found that a Taiwanese diplomat who has been arrested in Kansas City on labor fraud charges did not underpay her Filipina housekeeper as alleged, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a statement Monday. In the statement, the ministry explained why Jacqueline Liu, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, paid her maid US$400-US$450 as charged when the employment contract called for a monthly salary of US$1,240. The ministry said the maid wrote to Liu saying she was willing to have US$790 deducted from her salary per month to cover the costs of accommodation, food, health care and insurance, according to the investigation. "In this case, the maid would receive US$450 per month," the ministry said, adding that Liu also gave the maid an additional US$140 every month for food and groceries. That made the actual payment US$590 per month, the same figure as that Liu reported to the MOFA when asking the ministry to reimburse her expenses, the statement said. According to the affidavit, the maid signed the contract at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Manila. At the time the contract was signed, the maid also wrote Liu the letter, MOFA spokesman James Chang said. The ministry did not provide a further breakdown of the expenses cited in the letter. Liu was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and charged with foreign labor fraud in Kansas City on Nov. 10 for allegedly forcing her housekeeper to work long hours and paying her far less than the amount promised in the employment contract. Following Liu's detention, the ministry lodged a strong protest to the U.S. and demanded her immediate release. It was also continuing to communicate with the U.S. to seek diplomatic immunity for Liu. Meanwhile, the MOFA has also hired local attorneys and sent a special task force consisting of officials familiar with international law and U.S. affairs to help the Taiwanese diplomat. Liu is in detention pending a federal hearing scheduled for Nov. 16 in Kansas City. The U.S. and Taiwan signed an agreement on privileges, exemptions and immunities in 1980, which states that Taiwanese diplomatic personnel are immune from lawsuits and legal proceedings related to acts performed by them within the scope of their authorized functions. (By Elaine Hou)