GIO chief accused of violating law

The China Post staff

The legislative caucus of the opposition Kuomintang yesterday accused Government Information Office director-general Cheng Wen-tsan of violating the law governing the services of public functionaries and the statute regulating the treatment of government-held shares in enterprises by brokering sales of shares of Taiwan Television Enterprises Ltd. (TTV) KMT lawmaker Hsu Shao-ping, convener of the KMT caucus, told a press conference yesterday morning at the Legislative Yuan that as the GIO chief, Cheng should stay away from any involvement in sales of TTV shares, and his alleged role in persuading the Japanese Fuji TV network to sell its 4.8 percent stake in the TTV to the Liberty Times has seriously undermine Taiwan’s image and reputation.

Hsu and other caucus members went to accuse Cheng, Economics Minister Steve Chen and their superior, Premier Su Tseng-chang, and asked prosecutors to look into the allegations involving Cheng’s attempt to brokerage sales of the TTV shares. Meanwhile, the Cabinet will release results of its probes into the allegations involving Cheng in the sales of TTV shares on April 3. Lawmakers yesterday morning asked the Cabinet to release all the findings of the investigations within one week, and stop releasing government shares in the TTV before any controversies concerning Cheng’s alleged practice are clarified.

Earlier, Premier Su instructed Vice Premier Tsai Ing-wen to look into the allegations, and stressed that “If Cheng is at fault, I won’t shield him,” when answering an interpellation at the legislature.

Cheng allegedly 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 own pocket. But he acknowledged for the first time after the scandal came to light that they talked 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.

The GIO chief continued to deny any wrong-doing. But he could not explain why he asked the minister of economic affairs to meet Hasegawa.

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.