Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-05-07 05:05 PM
The scrapping of a first contract after the Malaysian-backed bidder failed to pay a deposit and the detention of Kuomintang Taipei City Councilor Lai Su-ru on bribery allegations rocked the capital’s political scene and the ruling party. Lai’s alleged involvement surprised observers because of her positive image and her posting as manager of President Ma Ying-jeou’s office.
Prosecutors detained Lai and Cheng Hung-tao, the businessman behind Taipei Gateway International Development, the successful bidder for the NT$70 billion (US$2.3 billion) project, in March.
On Tuesday, investigators reportedly raided offices and interviewed a minor opposition Democratic Progressive Party official in Taipei, Huang Cheng-kuo, and a man suspected of links to organized crime, Huang Yun-lung. Prosecutors suspected that the two men raised funds and helped Cheng to win the bid for the Twin Towers through forgery, media reports said.
Both men were questioned as witnesses during the first wave of raids surrounding the case but they were released due to lack of evidence against them, reports said.
Investigators were still looking into reports that in addition to Lai, other members of the Taipei City Council might also have accepted bribes to help Taipei Gateway win the bid. There have also been accusations in the media that city government officials might have been involved, most likely by leaking details about the tender to Cheng’s company.
Lai has been detained for a month and was likely to face an extension because of differences between her testimony and the information supplied by other interviewees, reports said.
The city politician, who also acted as an attorney for the KMT in several high-profile cases, was accused of having accepted NT$1 million (US$33,800) and of having been promised a further NT$9 million (US$304,000) if she backed Taipei Gateway’s bid during questioning and voting at the city council and on other official occasions.
Since Taipei Gateway’s bid was discarded, city officials were supposed to enter negotiations with the second-ranking bidder, BES Engineering Corporation. Members of the city council on Tuesday called for tenders to be scrapped and for the whole project to be relaunched for international bidders.
Department of Rapid Transit Systems Commissioner Tsay Huei-sheng said talks with BES Engineering had begun, but if the company did not agree with the eventual project, the case would move to the third-ranked bidder.
He would not exclude dropping the current tender results, but only if the judiciary found illegal or unfair practices had occurred during the procedure.
City councilors questioned the suitability of dealing with BES Engineering because the company had been involved in several delays and irregular practices on previous public construction deals, reports said.
The Twin Towers case embarrassed both Ma, who has boasted of his image as a reformist and clean politician, and Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin, who is widely seen as preparing a bid for the presidency in 2016.