Sister Taiwan president denies links to Twin Towers scandal

Court decides to free businessman on bail

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – President Ma Ying-jeou’s sister Ma Yi-nan on Wednesday denied media reports that she was involved in the Twin Towers development scandal which led to the detention of presidential confidante Lai Su-ru.
Chinese-language Next Magazine alleged Wednesday that Ma Yi-nan helped Taipei Gateway International Development cover up its true nature as an empty shell corporation in the bidding for the NT$70 billion (US$2.3 billion) Twin Towers project near the Taipei Railway Station.
Lai, a Taipei City councilor who also served as director of the president’s office as chairman of the ruling Kuomintang, was ordered detained last Saturday on suspicion of having received bribes from main Taipei Gateway backer Cheng Hung-tao in return for promoting his bid for the Twin Towers project.
Next Magazine wrote Cheng had spent tens of millions of New Taiwan dollars to sign a secret contract with a KMT-owned enterprise while also receiving Ma Yi-nan’s assistance last August to loan offices from Da Cin Construction Co., Ltd. to help it pose as a serious corporation.
In a statement released Wednesday, Ma Yi-nan said she had never heard of Taipei Gateway before the recent scandal broke. She denied having helped it use offices from Da Cin and also denied any knowledge of the relationship between the two companies.
Ma acknowledged she was acquainted with Da Cin Vice Chairman Wang Jen-chih, but only through charitable events. She last met him during a visit to a village in Nantou County on March 24, her statement said.
The president’s sister expressed annoyance as what she described as Next Magazine’s repeated attempts at smearing her reputation, adding she would evaluate the need to take legal action against the publication.
During the run-up to her brother’s re-election in early 2012, Ma was accused by the magazine of acting as a go-between in deals between state-run corporations and private business groups. She reportedly arranged a meeting between Wang and top officials from the Taiwan Power Corporation to discuss land development deals, a meeting which she claimed was coincidental.
Next and two of its journalists were also reportedly fined NT$780,000 (US$26,000) for a story alleging she had used her influence to win an appointment as university president for one relative and a place at a city retirement home for another, her statement said.
Earlier, she also denied accusations that she was involved in the sale of pharmaceutical products by the company she was working for to the Taipei City Government when her brother was mayor between 1998 and 2006.
On Wednesday, the Taipei District Court ruled Cheng would be released on bail of NT$500,000 (US$16,700), a reversal of a decision last Saturday to detain him. An appeal against a similar decision for Lai was rejected by the Taiwan High Court, which means the city councilor remains the only person in the scandal to remain detained.
Cheng was accused of forging the approval of a Malaysian group for his Twin Towers bid, but could not be accused of trying to collude with other suspects, the court ruled. The businessman was still banned from leaving the country, moving house and contacting other defendants, reports said.
Prosecutors on Wednesday summoned Taipei Gateway adviser Chia Erh-ching for questioning. The former Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems official is suspected of having paid Lai NT$1 million (US$33,400) and promised a further NT$9 million (US$301,000) if she backed the company’s bid.
According to media reports, an aide to Lai admitted she had provided the politician with several bank accounts which still contained considerable amounts of funds, leading to media speculations that her legal problems might expand.