Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-04 04:11 PM
Farglory Chairman Chao Teng-hsiung was ordered detained Tuesday over allegations he gave NT$16 million (US$532,000) to former Taoyuan County Vice Magistrate Ye Shi-wen in return for winning the contract to build a low-cost apartment complex in the town of Pateh. The case has also led to the detention of Ye, an associate of Chao and a professor who functioned as an intermediary.
Because of Chao’s long-time standing as one of Taiwan’s best-known real estate and construction leaders and because of Ye’s background in the central government, the case has elicited suspicions about other projects.
The prosecutors were planning to take their investigation upward to target high-level incumbent civil servants, which in the case of a breakthrough would provoke a political storm, the Chinese-language United Evening News headlined Wednesday.
The discovery of the Farglory scandal was the result of investigators keeping a close watch over an official at the level of vice minister since 2010, the paper wrote. The Pateh case was only the tip of an iceberg consisting of the real estate group paying off officials, according to the report.
Chao’s detention was only the first course in a long meal, the paper wrote, with further accomplices in cases of collusion between business and politics waiting to be revealed.
During their investigation, prosecutors found frequent meetings between Chao and the unnamed suspect official but no evidence of money changing hands, according to the United Evening News. Last week’s raids on 20 homes and offices had provided the investigators with numerous documents which might turn up enough information to launch a second phase with more searches, the paper reported.
Leading Kuomintang officials including Vice President Wu Den-yih, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Liluan Chu and Taoyuan County Magistrate John Wu denied having close links to Farglory.
In a separate development, Chao’s attorney offered his resignation Wednesday after accusations of improper behavior for a lawyer.
After visiting Chao at the Taipei Detention Center Tuesday, Chou Tsan-hsiung told waiting reporters that the tycoon had only paid the money to “solve problems for everybody” and had as-it-were been forced to pay. The attorney also published a statement on behalf of the Farglory chairman to apologize to the public and to say he would not sue the Taoyuan County Government after it ended its contract with the company for the Pateh project.
As a result, critics and media reports accused Chou of acting as a proxy for the tycoon to collude with others.
After he saw the accusations in the media Wednesday, the attorney said they amounted to a grave insult to his professionalism and he therefore immediately handed in his resignation from the case. Chou said he would ask an intermediary to inform Chao of his decision, hoping the businessman could understand.
Farglory has interests reaching from other low-cost apartments in Linkou, New Taipei City, to the “Giant Egg” sports stadium in the capital, while Ye has been described as one of the driving forces behind the prestigious Taoyuan Aerotropolis project. Critics called Wednesday for a halt to the airport development until public hearings showed clearly what Ye’s involvement had been.
After the scandal broke, Wu ordered Ye’s dismissal before going on to announce two subsequent reshuffles of his county government team.
Local and regional elections scheduled for November 29 were already difficult for President Ma Ying-jeou’s embattled party, but the Farglory scandal was likely to endanger even more KMT city mayors and county magistrates, commentators said. Chinese-language Next Magazine said major Farglory projects were spread over several regions and cities of northern Taiwan, all of them held by prominent KMT mayors and magistrates. The corruption allegations were likely to damage the party’s candidates in those areas, reports said.
Former President Lee Teng-hui condemned the government’s practice of taking away land from ordinary citizens on the one hand and then helping major real estate interests to make lots of money on the other hand. The practice only existed in unfair societies, Lee said.