Prosecutors summon Wong for questioning

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By Christine Chou , The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Shilin District Prosecutors Office (士林地檢署) on Wednesday listed Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huei (翁啟惠) as a defendant on charges of breach of trust, searching seven premises for evidence including Wong’s office, laboratory and residences. This is the first case Taiwan has seen in which a head of the nation’s highest academic institution, which is under direct supervision from the Presidential Office, is accused of a crime and subjected to searches, according to local media. A prominent biochemist, Wong sparked controversy last month after allegedly conducting insider trading of shares of pharmaceutical firm OBI Pharma (浩鼎), guided by his forehand knowledge of an experimental breast cancer treatment’s test result. Prosecutors held hearings for 11 people yesterday, including Wong and Samuel Yin (尹衍樑), Chairman of Ruentex Financial Group (潤泰集團). Ruentex Group is a major shareholder in OBI Pharma.

According to prosecutors, Wong, OBI Pharma founder Michael Chang (張念慈) and head of the firm’s finance division, Chang Hui-fen (張穗芬), have been charged with breach of trust under the Criminal Code (刑法); Eight witnesses were also summoned to give evidence on the case, including Wong’s wife Liu Yieng-lii (劉映理), Samuel Yin and Academia Sinica Associate Research Fellow Wu Chung-yi (吳宗益).

Under the command of prosecutors, the Investigation Bureau’s Taipei City Field Office searched Wong’s residences in Taipei City’s Songshan District (中山區) and New Taipei City’s Xizhi District (汐止區), and seized cancer-drug patent licensing documents at Academia Sinica.

‘Never my intention’ Wong tendered his resignation from his post at the academic institution on March 31 while still in the U.S., on grounds of health reasons, but his request was rejected by President Ma Ying-jeou, who demanded Wong return to Taiwan as soon as possible and clearly explain his involvement in the scandal, according to Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信). After Wong returned to Taiwan from the U.S. last week, legislators on Monday questioned how the nation’s top ranking science official could have been embroiled in such a controversy and damage the reputation of Academia Sinica. Wong insisted he “had absolutely no intention to (engage in insider trading or stock speculation).” The biochemist, considered to be knowledgeable about the experimental drug, admitted he had sold 10,000 OBI Pharma shares on behalf of his daughter on Feb. 18. That was only three days before the company announced that its breast cancer drug had not met a predetermined target in a Phase 2 testing, causing its stock price to plunge. Wong apologized and vowed he will no longer sell shares under his daughter’s name. His daughter Wong Yu-shioh (翁郁琇), a painter residing in the United States, had owned 3 million of the firm’s shares.