TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Ti Yung Co. Chairman Chen Chi-hsiang was questioned by the Supreme Prosecutors Office Special Investigation Division as a defendant Saturday about his corruption allegations against former Cabinet Secretary-General Lin Yi-shih.
Next Magazine alleged Wednesday that Lin demanded and received NT$63 million (US$2.1 million) in illegal payments from Chen, a subcontractor to the state-run China Steel Corporation, two years ago. Earlier this year, he asked for a further NT$83 million (US$2.7 million) but Chen turned him down, Next wrote. As a result, Ti Yung was on the brink of bankruptcy, the businessman told the weekly.
Lin resigned Friday and was listed as a defendant by the SID, even though he continued to maintain his innocence. During the interrogation Saturday, the SID also changed Chen’s status from witness to defendant, reports said.
The businessman disappeared, reportedly because he feared for his life, according to some reports. Prosecutors issued summons for his interrogation, adding that they would have to talk to him first before they could question Lin.
Saturday morning, prominent attorney Wellington Koo told reporters that Chen and his wife had spent at least four hours at the SID offices in Taipei. He had accompanied Chen’s wife as her attorney, Koo said. The SID was likely to question Lin, his wife, who is a prominent television news anchor, and his father, a powerful local politician in the Kaohsiung area, next week at the earliest, reports said.
SID spokesman Chen Hung-ta told reporters that prosecutors had found the missing businessman at a Taipei hotel just before midnight Friday and taken him in for questioning. He called in three attorneys and refused to be interrogated overnight, the spokesman said.
The prosecutors’ interview with Chen began at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and was still continuing by 4 p.m., the SID said, without providing any details about the contents of the conversation.
The Ti Yung chairman reportedly stayed at two luxury hotels in Taipei’s fashionable eastern area and traveled around by taxi, the SID said.
Lin’s situation worsened after a picture published in a newspaper seemed to contradict his earlier statements that he didn’t really know Chen and might have only met him once. He later changed his story to say that they had met four times.
Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chao Tien-lin said he had heard an audio recording of Chen discussing the bribes with Lin. The two talked over the phone for at least 8 minutes on February 23, Chao said.
Appearing on a talk show Friday night, Lin said that if there was such a tape and it was real, then it should be handed over to prosecutors to be investigated. He also claimed that Chen had phoned him 75 times, but that he only returned five calls. The politician said that it should be the other way round if he really was so interested in making Chen pay him bribes.
In the magazine, the businessman said that he had visited Lin several times at his Kaohsiung area home and had brought him bags containing the NT$63 million in US dollars. Lin denied the allegations and said CSC had broken off relations with Ti Yung at the request of the DPP-controlled Kaohsiung City Government, which had found Chen’s company in repeated violation of environmental guidelines.
The former Cabinet official denied having mentioned the money in his conversations with Chen and having boasted that as secretary-general he had the power to appoint chairmen of state-run enterprises.
“I absolutely didn’t use official titles to push people into a corner, and I also absolutely didn’t ask for money,” he said.