Ex-justice minister may be prosecuted for illegal misuse of expense account

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Former Justice Minister Shih Mao-lin is likely to be prosecuted for allegedly misusing the special administrators’ expenses during his stint, a magazine claimed yesterday. The Next magazine said the imminent corruption indictment against Shih was one of the reasons behind Justice Minister Wang Ching-feng’s refusal to let the predecessor resume his previous post as prosecutor. Shih had yet to respond to the Next report.

His former top aide, Tang Hui-tung, who is believed to have handled the former minister’s special expense account on his behalf, admitted that Shih was being investigated.

But he denied any wrongdoing in the process of claiming reimbursements, and stressed that all the money involved had been spent on work-related purposes. Next, in its latest issue published yesterday, claimed that prosecutors have found irregularities in Shih’s using of receipts in claiming reimbursements from the special expense account. Shih allegedly had used large amounts of irrelevant receipts when claiming reimbursements, magazine said. During his three-year-and-three-month stint as justice minister that ended on May 20, Shih had received total reimbursements of NT$1.65 million, the tabloid Next said. Prosecutors had questioned both Shih and Tang, but the pair’s statements did not match, it said. The report said Shih would be indicted on corruption charges after the Legislature closes at the end of this month. Justice Minister Wang said earlier this month that she refused to let Shih resume his post as prosecutor in order to defend both the image of prosecutors and the impartiality of the judicial system. Asked to elaborate, Wang said she would not disclose further details, or it would “hurt someone.” The magazine claimed that the imminent prosecution against Shih was one the reasons behind Wang’s decision to bar her predecessor’s return. Tang, in a press statement, claimed that the Next report was proof that a smear campaign had been launched against Shih. “Several days ago some friends and colleagues warned Shih that there would be a persistent smear campaign against him,” said Tang. “The media report today has proved the truth of the warning.” Tang said the Next report contradicted the facts, and contained “obvious errors.” He cited as an example of such errors the part concerning Shih’s using cash to pay for all of the expenses. The magazine said as Shih did not have a credit card and had to use cash, he was not given receipts for the spending. But Tang, admitting that Shih did not have a credit card, said receipts would still be given even though one used cash, and therefore would not have to collect irrelevant receipts for reimbursements. He said they did not fail to give clear accounts of the spending during their questioning by prosecutors, as alleged in the report, but he declined to disclose details of a case under judicial scrutiny. Administrators’ special expenses have generated huge controversies since President Ma Ying-jeou was indicted last year on corruption charges over alleged misuse of his official expenses during his stint a Taipei mayor between 1998 and 2006. He has been found not guilty. But a number of high-profile political figures, including former Vice President Annette Lu, are still on trial over what is widely acknowledged as a flaw in the government allowance system rather than in their personal integrity. The Legislature has been urged to revise the law governing the allowance system, so as to prevent an estimated 6,000-strong government administrators from being prosecuted.