DPP backs convicted ex-transportation minister

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The opposition Democratic Progressive Party voiced its support Wednesday for former Transportation Minister Kuo Yao-chi, who faces eight years in prison over corruption allegations.
The Supreme Court confirmed a guilty verdict last week in the case alleging she had accepted US$20,000 (NT$600,000) from a bidder for projects at the Taipei Railway Station in 2006.
Kuo pleaded innocent, rejecting claims she had received the money hidden in a box for tealeaves donated by the Nan Ren Hu Group, a bidder for the renovation of three floors at the station.
The DPP’s regular weekly Central Standing Committee meeting Wednesday concluded with a call for a new review of the case to give Kuo an opportunity to clear her name.
Party chairman Su Tseng-chang said that because the severe prison sentence followed two not-guilty verdicts by the Taipei District Court and the Taiwan High Court, doubts had arisen about the fairness of the final outcome.
The verdict that Kuo had accepted money was arrived at after conflicting statements by witnesses only, going completely against judicial practice, Su said. He said the party would support the former minister in seeking redress by filing a special appeal or a retrial.
The public would lose its faith in the impartiality of the judiciary if it didn’t give Kuo another chance, he said.
The DPP motion praised Kuo’s performance in office during the administration of President Chen Shui-bian from 2000 to 2008 and warned against the political exploitation of the judiciary against the opposition in the run-up to the December 6, 2014 local elections.
Kuo appeared at a separate news conference earlier where she pleaded her innocence and received the support of former Cabinet colleagues and opposition activists.
Former DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen also released a statement supporting Kuo’s case for judicial redress.
In 2006, Nan Ren Hu Chairman Lee Ching-po reportedly told his son, Lee Tsung-hsien, to put the money in the tea box and give it to Kuo as a present, prosecutors said. They alleged that after the payment, she ordered the Taiwan Railway Administration to revise details for the station tender twice.
When investigators raided her home, they only found the box but no money inside. Lee and his son admitted having given the money, but said it was just a present to an old friend. Kuo denied ever having received any money from the duo, accusing them of making false statements which eventually led to her guilty verdict.
Kuo was close to former President Chen, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence on corruption-related charges. She was also a member of his Taipei City Government team when he was mayor of the capital from 1994 to 1998.