Ex-president Ma insists on innocence in media asset sell-off case

Ma Ying-jeou defended himself against charges and he wondered if political forces have intervened in the case.

Taipei, July 13 (CNA)-Former President  (馬英九) defended himself against charges he improperly disposed of three media outlets owned by the Kuomintang (KMT) while he headed the party, saying he will be proven innocent when all the evidence comes out in court.

Ma was indicted Tuesday for breach of trust and violating the Securities and Exchange Act for his involvement in the sales of China Television, Central Motion Picture Co. and the Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC) in 2006, when he was KMT chairman.

In a statement released Friday, Ma said the case was an old one that was investigated for eight years by the now-defunct Special Investigation Division under the Supreme Prosecutors Office.

He said the division found no illegal practices or that the KMT had sold its assets at prices far lower than their market values. After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took power two years ago, the investigation was reopened and has now resulted in an indictment, he said, and he wondered if political forces have intervened in the case.

“I believe people’s eyes are bright,” he said.

Ma said in the statement that when the DPP government passed an amendment to the Radio and Television Act, requiring political parties, as well as the government and the military to withdraw from the media business, the KMT sought buyers for the outlets in accordance with the law.

There were few buyers willing to talk with the KMT about the assets because most potential buyers were often pressured and threatened, Ma contended.
Despite such circumstances, he continued to make every effort as party chairman to find a way to sell the media properties properly and for a proper price, Ma said.

The KMT sold its assets legally based on the Radio and Television Act 13 years ago, Ma argued, but now the Taipei District Prosecutors Office is indicting him for “selling assets that should be returned to the state in the future in accordance with the law.”

Ma said the “law” referred to is the Act Governing the Settlement of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations, which was not passed until 2016 when the DPP came to power again.

“He who wants to beat his dog will easily find a stick,” Ma criticized.

The district prosecutors office denied in a statement of its own that the 2016 law was what it was referring to.

The office cited other references, including a Control Yuan report on the KMT’s assets in 2001 that said they were improperly obtained and principles laid down by the Ministry of Finance in 2004 for handling assets of political parties.

Under those principles, prosecutors said, some KMT-owned assets, including Central Motion Picture, were categorized as “national assets.”

They also cited a draft bill submitted by the Ministry of Justice to the Legislature in September 2002, but that bill was never enacted until a similar version was passed in 2016, which was the law that Ma cited.

Ma also noted that the district prosecutors office and some media have repeatedly said that the evidence proving his guilt includes more than 100 CDs of audio recordings and numerous meeting records.

He argued that the evidence from those recordings used by prosecutors was taken out of context to support their charges and said the prosecutors should make public all relevant materials now that they have decided to indict him.

Ma said that once all of the evidence is brought to light, it will prove his innocence.

In announcing their indictment, prosecutors said they asked the court to give Ma a heavy penalty because of his “bad attitude” for exercising his right to silence during questioning.

Ma defended his behavior in the statement, saying he decided not to talk during the last two rounds of questioning by prosecutors after finding they failed to review evidence in a just and objective manner.

He also objected to what he felt were repeated leaks of key information to certain media outlets during the investigation by prosecutors and their refusal to investigate after he filed a formal motion contending that secrets were being illegally leaked.

The former president has been investigated on other charges by the DPP government since his presidency ended in May 2016. On May 15, 2018, the High Court found Ma guilty of leaking classified information related to the investigation of senior DPP lawmaker Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) while the probe was in progress in September 2013.