Tsai probes Cheng’s role in TTV share sale

The China Post staff

Vice Premier Tsai Ing-wen will be probing the alleged brokering by Government Information Office director-general Cheng Wen-tsan in the sale of TTV shares. Premier Su Tseng-chang told the Legislative Yuan he has asked Tsai to look into the allegations that Cheng tried to persuade the Japanese Fuji TV network to sell its 4.8 percent shareholding in the Taiwan Television Enterprise to the Liberty Times. “Tsai is going to find out the truth,” Su said in reply to an interpellation. “If Cheng is at fault, I won’t shield him,” he promised. Cheng hosted a dinner on January 17, where Sumio Hasegawa, a Fuji representative, met Steve Chen, minister of economic affairs, and Wu Ah-min, board chairman of the mass-circulation newspaper in Taipei. Lai Kuo-chou, TTV board chairman and chief executive officer, was fired last Wednesday for purchasing the Fuji-owned shares and those of two other Japanese institutional investors. He was alleged to have violated the company law. A son-in-law of former President Lee Teng-hui, Lai held a press conference Friday with Hasegawa, who said what Cheng and Chen tried to persuade him. “That would be a big scandal in Japan and elsewhere (except Taiwan),” he stressed. Under fire from Taiwan Solidarity Union lawmakers, the premier could not but let what they described as “an international scandal” be fully investigated. Cheng, a Su appointee, said he paid for the dinner party out of his pocket. But he acknowledged for the first time after the scandal came to light that they about the TTV shares at the dinner table. He had only admitted that he told Hasegawa at the party Fuji is the best TV network in Japan and the Liberty Times is the best paper in Taiwan. TSU lawmakers called Cheng “a broker,” demanding that he resign to take responsibility for creating the international scandal. Cheng lashed out at Lai Monday, blasting the ex-TTV chief for calling in Hasegawa to avenge his dismissal and Hasegawa repeated his allegations.

Lee Teng-hui is the spiritual leader of the TSU. He fell out with Chen Shui-bian last year when he withheld support for the president trying to weather his worst political crisis. Chen Shui-bian faced three recalls, while Shih Ming-teh and his Redshirts demanded his resignation to take responsibility for a spate of corruption scandals involving himself, his family and his close aides. The GIO chief continued to deny any wrong-doing. But he could not explain away why he asked the minister of economic affairs to meet with Hasegawa.

“I didn’t tell Hasegawa to sell shares to the Liberty Times,” Cheng told lawmakers. “I only told him it’s up to Fuji to meet the requirement by the National Communications Commission to part with its TTV shares,” he said. The NCC wants foreign investors to sell their shares in Taiwan media. Should Cheng be found to have tried to persuade Hasegawa, the GIO head would be fired, a Cabinet source said. “Pressure is building up to axe Cheng,” he added. Wang Hsing-nan, Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus whip, condemned Lai Kuo-chuo for “ingratitude.” President Chen kept Lai on his TTV job “for a long time” simply because “his father-in-law is Lee Teng-hui,” Wang said. “Now,” he charged, “he is trying to be ungrateful.” Press reports said Lai was scapegoated because President Chen now wanted to get even with Lee Teng-hui. Steve Chen said he was just invited to take part in the party. “I didn’t know anything about the TTV share deal,” he added. “Nor can I influence any such deal,” said Steve Chen, whose ministry has no jurisdiction over mass communications media.