Six sitting, ex-lawmakers questioned over bribery allegations

Taipei,  Six incumbent and former legislators were questioned and had their offices and homes raided by Taipei prosecutors Friday morning over bribery allegations.

The lawmakers questioned included Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT); independent lawmaker Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇); and Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The two former lawmakers under investigation are Mark Chen (陳唐山) of the DPP and New Power Party Chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明).

Each of the heads of the incumbent and former lawmakers’ offices were also summoned and questioned by prosecutors, according to a statement released Friday by the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, which was in charge of the raid.

All of the lawmakers except for Chao were questioned on whether they took bribes from former Pacific Distribution Investment Co. Chairman Lee Heng-lung (李恆隆) to help Lee in his legal battle against the Far Eastern Group over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department store chain.

Lee was also summoned by prosecutors earlier Friday, according to the prosecutors.

In response to the raids, the Legislative Yuan said it was cooperating with prosecutors’ searches of lawmakers’ offices and would not comment on the ongoing investigation.

The searches of lawmakers’ offices at the Legislature began at around 8 a.m. and ended at 12:18 p.m.

In all, the prosecutors office sent 34 prosecutors and 230-plus investigators to conduct searches at 65 locations across Taiwan, from Keelung, Taipei, New Taipei and Taoyuan cities and Miaoli County in the north to Kaohsiung City and Pingtung and Taitung counties in the south.

They also questioned 63 persons of interest and confiscated NT$9.2 million in cash that prosecutors suspect were from bribes recently paid by Lee to the lawmakers, though no indication was given on the locations where the cash was seized.

Lee has been in a legal fight against Far Eastern Group Chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) over Pacific SOGO’s ownership since the early 2000s.

At the heart of the issue was whether Far Eastern’s capital injection of NT$4.01 billion from 2002 to 2008 was proper and gave it ownership of the chain.

It had been ruled both legal and illegal during the legal battle, but the Supreme Administrative Court gave a final ruling in 2013 that the capital injections would stand and that Far Eastern Group was the chain’s largest shareholder and rightful owner.

Prosecutors believe Lee’s campaign to buy influence began after that ruling and has continued until today as he remained determined to fight for ownership of the lucrative property.

They suspect the alleged bribes paid since 2013 have been used to lobby the Ministry of Economic Affairs to amend Company Act clauses on capital increases and make them retroactive so that his company could maintain control of Pacific SOGO, one of the most profitable department store chains in Taiwan.

In 2019, Lee sold part of his shares in Pacific Distribution Investment Co. to a new company to continue his legal pursuit of the department store under the new company’s name.

At that time, lawmakers received money from Lee to pressure the MOEA on his behalf, and they responded by holding a round of public hearings in December 2019 to pressure the MOEA to change the Company Act to help Lee’s cause, according to prosecutors.

Meanwhile, Chao was questioned in a separate case in which he allegedly took bribes from a funeral services company to pressure the Construction and Planning Agency to allow a cemetery to be built on a piece of land that is now part of a national park, prosecutors said.


Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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