Top Ma aide steps down after allegations of graft

By Lauly Li,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Taipei District Court late last night was mulling whether to detain Kuomintang (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如) over allegations of bribery in a major development project.

Former Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS,捷運局) official Chia Erh-ching (賈二慶) and real estate developer Cheng Hung-tao (程宏道) both admitted to the court to having bribed Lai while serving as lobbyists for the Taipei Gateway International Development Co., Ltd. (TGID). The firm in 2012 won the bid for the Twin Towers project, one of the Taipei City Government’s top 10 development projects, but failed to fulfill stipulated terms, rendering the contract nullified in February of 2013.

According to Taipei prosecutors, TGID allegedly asked Lai to do them a “favor” during interpellation and voting in the city council to help them win the bid. Prosecutors said that in return, TGID would give Lai NT$10 million in total, and divided the cash into increments of NT$1 million, NT$3 million and NT$6 million at different times throughout the bidding process. Taipei prosecutors claim Lai said that she did receive NT$1 million as a political contribution in 2011, however Lai denied that the funds were any form of bribery.

Taipei City Department of Finance (DOF,財政局) Commissioner Chiu Ta-chan (邱大展) was summoned by Taipei prosecutors on Wednesday night, but was later released. Prosecutors said they have been collecting evidence for a long time, adding that they searched 21 locations, including Lai’s residence and her office at the Taipei City Council. While at the Taipei District Court, Lai verbally resigned from her position as the president’s staff office director and as a member of the KMT Central Standing Committee.

‘Truthful’ Lai Lai, a member of the KMT Central Standing Committee, was promoted from KMT spokesperson to President Ma Ying-jeou’s staff office director in 2012.

Lai’s legal expertise also makes her a popular legal consultant within the ruling party, including with the president and former Cabinet Secretary-General Lin Yih-shih (林益世). Commentators consider Lai to be Ma’s most reliable policy advisor and the closest city councilor to the president. KMT spokesperson Yin Wei (殷瑋) said the KMT and President Ma Ying-jeou respect the court’s jurisdiction and hope that the truth of the case will be revealed as soon as possible. Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said yesterday that he cannot comment the case, as it is still under review by the court. Chiu, Taipei City DOF commissioner, allegedly leaked the names of those on the Twin Towers review committee to TGID, the construction consortium.

Taipei prosecutors said they will keep probing the case, and will not rule out the possibility of summoning Chiu for another round of questioning. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the city government actively provided relevant information about the bid to Taipei prosecutors. The city government will not tolerate any department acting illegally in terms of the Twin Towers or any other city project, Hau said. The mayor said he was surprised about Lai’s alleged involvement in the Twin Towers project.