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Court raises bail for Keelung speaker
Prosecutors wanted Huang detained
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-20 03:46 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Keelung District Court on Friday rejected an appeal by prosecutors to cancel bail for Keelung City Council Speaker Huang Ching-tai, but it raised the sum to NT$2 million (US$66,600) from NT$1.2 million (US$40,000).

The politician, who is also the official Kuomintang candidate in the November 29 mayoral election, is a defendant in a case of influence peddling on behalf of construction companies.

Huang was freed on bail Thursday despite prosecutors insisting he could collude with other suspects or flee the country. They immediately filed an appeal against the bail decision, which led to a new court session Friday to discuss the issue.

After three and a half hours, Huang left court and again proclaimed his innocence to reporters while expressing his confidence in the judicial system. The court announced at 5 p.m. that it stood by its decision to release Huang, including a restriction barring the politician from leaving the country, but it demanded he come up with an extra NT$800,000.

When investigators searched his offices Tuesday, they reportedly found about NT$5 million (US$166,000) in New Taiwan dollar and Chinese yuan. Huang claimed the cash was money for his election campaign, but prosecutors reportedly suspected he had received funds from construction groups in return for pressuring city government officials to go slow on rooting out illegally built structures in the harbor town.

The raids by prosecutors started with officials at city departments who were taken in for questioning and listed as defendants before the searches focused on Huang. A senior official at the JSL Group, a prominent construction and real estate company, was also interrogated about the allegations.

The KMT, which nominated Huang as its mayoral candidate, said that because he had not been detained, there was no need to drop him or to take other sanctions against him.

Several potential replacements for Huang denied they were interested in running for mayor. The list included legislator Hsieh Kuo-liang, former presidential vice secretary-general Lo Chih-chiang and former Cabinet spokesman Philip Yang.

The KMT is already fighting off corruption allegations involving party and local government officials in several other regions, causing fears that it faces defeat in the November 29 elections, where voters nationwide can cast ballots for city mayors, county magistrates and councilors.

Protesters appeared outside the Keeling City Council Friday morning to demand the speaker’s resignation and a thorough review of all development projects in the city. All city councilors should apologize to the public because they had failed to monitor the speaker’s behavior, they said. The protesters also wanted mayoral candidates to reveal whether or not they had accepted political donations from construction companies.

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