Court discusses detention of Keelung mayoral candidate
KMT likely to look for new candidate
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-18 02:51 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A court was evaluating the detention of Keelung City Council Speaker and Kuomintang mayoral candidate Huang Ching-tai Wednesday in a case of corruption.

Prosecutors raided his office as well as Keelung City Government departments Tuesday in an investigation into illegal construction practices. The investigators said Huang was suspected of having pressured city officials into refraining from tearing down illegal structures in return for money.

The raids reportedly turned up NT$5 million (US$166,000) in cash, both Taiwanese and Chinese currency at the bedroom inside the speaker’s office. Huang was reportedly unable to give a clear explanation for the origin of the funds, which media reports said might have come from the prominent JSL real estate and construction group.

He was one of eight people hauled in for questioning, and after 12 hours of interrogation, the Keelung District Prosecutors Office decided at noon Wednesday to apply to the Keelung District Court for his detention.

Prosecutors said Huang did not refuse to be interrogated overnight, but out of concern for his health, they allowed him to rest ten minutes every hour. The speaker also spent one hour with his attorney, reports said.

The seven other people were listed as defendants, with five of them eventually released on bail ranging from NT$30,000 (US$999) to a maximum of NT$100,000 (US$3,300) each for two city officials and a JSL Group manager. Two other individuals were allowed to leave without bail, reports said.

The allegations come at an inopportune moment for the ruling KMT, which selected Huang as its candidate for mayor of Keelung in the November 29 local elections. The incumbent, Chang Tong-rong, will reach the end of his second and final term after a host of scandals of his own.

The KMT was reportedly unwilling to comment on the allegations against Huang Wednesday morning. Under party regulations, a member accused of corruption can be disciplined after he is found guilty by a district court, but action can be taken earlier if the person in case is found to have damaged the KMT’s reputation.

In any event, a corruption suspect could not be nominated as a candidate for an elected office, which made it highly likely the KMT would have to search for a new mayoral candidate in a nationwide campaign which was already difficult for the ruling party because of the low popularity ratings of its chairman, President Ma Ying-jeou.

Media attention focused on a Ma confidant, former presidential Vice Secretary-General Lo Chih-chiang, who was mentioned as a candidate months ago before he accepted a job as a talk show host. Writing online Wednesday, he failed to give a direct answer to reports he would be the logical choice to replace Huang as the KMT mayoral candidate. Former Cabinet spokesman Philip Yang was also mentioned last year as a contender for the port city.

The scandal in Keelung follows corruption allegations against other prominent KMT local government officials, including a Taoyuan County vice magistrate, a Nantou County magistrate and a brother of the Changhua County magistrate.

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