MOJ reshuffles top prosecutors amid protests

The China Post staff

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) announced a large-scale reshuffle of over a dozen of top prosecutors and other senior judicial officials late last night amid protests against alleged political intervention. Taiwan High Court Prosecutor-General Hsieh Wen-ting, a former vice justice minister, was named chief prosecutor of the Supreme Prosecutors Office. Hsieh’s position will be taken over by Yen Tah-ho, chief at the Taipei Prosecutors Office, whose position will in turn be filled by Vice Justice Minister Wang Tien-sheng. The latest reshuffle also covers almost all top prosecutors at various prosecutors offices. Nine on the 17-member judicial personnel reviewing board boycotted the changes. A prosecution reform association formed by prosecutors urged all the appointees not to take up their new positions. They alleged obvious political interference in the reshuffle. The Presidential Office was the first government agency openly denying any arm twisting concerning personnel changes or any particular judicial case. It dismissed as “groundless” media report that it had applied pressure on prosecutors during their probe into alleged misuse of a special allowance set aside for the president’s discretionary use.

The Presidential Office was responding to reports by the United Daily News, a mass-circulation daily, which quoted “reliable sources” as saying that after first lady Wu Shu-chen and other officials were indicted last November in connection with the “state affairs fund,” top officials from President Chen Shui-bian’s administration attempted to pressure the prosecutors into dropping the case.

According to the Chinese-language daily, Taiwan High Court Prosecutor-General Hsieh Wen-ting, who reportedly refused to budge under pressure, was recently notified that he would have to step down from his post.

The Presidential Office said in a statement that the UDN report was “speculative” and “not verified.” It also condemned the report as not being conducive to maintaining the prosecution’s independence or upholding social justice.

In the press release pointed out that during the investigations into the “state affairs case,” the Presidential Office had repeatedly said that it would respect the judicial system and cooperate with the investigators.

“The Presidential Office has never applied pressure on the prosecutors or intervened in the investigation,” the press release said.

Wu was formally charged with embezzlement and forgery involving the misuse of a special “state affairs fund” that can only be used by President Chen himself. The prosecution said she used invoices collected from family members and others to claim NT$14.8 million in reimbursements from the fund between July 2002 and March 2006.

Three other former and incumbent officials of the Presidential Office were also indicted on charges of embezzlement, forgery and perjury.

A public trial concerning the case is still proceeding at the Taipei District Court despite the first lady failing to show up for court hearings, citing health reasons.