Legislators deny SOGO bribery allegations and bailed

Accused middleman in Sogo department store case also implicated in funeral home bribery scam

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Former DPP legislator Mark Chen at prosecutors office on Saturday (Aug. 1). 

Former DPP legislator Mark Chen at prosecutors office on Saturday (Aug. 1).  (CNA photo)

UPDATE: Aug. 1, 7:40 p.m.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Prosecutors on Saturday (Aug. 1) requested the detention of four incumbent and one former lawmaker over allegations of bribery related to a power struggle for the Sogo department stores.

The five politicians were Kuomintang (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Su Chen-ching (蘇震清), independent Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) and former New Power Party (NPP) Chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明).

Prosecutors also asked for five other suspects, including businessman Lee Heng-lung (李恆隆), to be detained incommunicado. They argued that if they remained free, they might collude or destroy evidence, the Liberty Times reported.

Earlier in the day, former Foreign Minister Mark Chen (陳唐山), who also served as DPP legislator, was released on bail.

According to procedure, a court will hear arguments for and against the prosecutors' request, reaching a decision hours later.

Earlier story:

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Several individuals accused of bribery in a case involving control of Sogo department store (SOGO) have rejected the allegations and were bailed on Saturday (Aug. 1).

According to prosecutors, the former chairman of Pacific Distribution Investment Co. (Pacific Co.), Lee Heng-lung (李恆隆), bribed five legislators with thousands to millions of New Taiwan dollars through Kuo Ke-ming (郭克銘). Kuo was previously office manager of the incumbent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清).

Arriving at the district prosecutors office with investigators on Friday (July 31), Lee told the press he did not give the lawmakers any money. However, he admitted loaning NT$20 million ($681,672) to his "good friend" Su and said this had been paid back, SETN reported.

Former DPP legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山) was released on bail of NT$500,000 Saturday morning. The Kuomintang legislator Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and the former New Power Party Chairman Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) both denied receiving money from Lee.

The fight over ownership of SOGO has continued for more than two decades. Lee's Pacific Co. was created to solve the financial crisis facing the department store chain.

However, a cash injection of NT$4 billion from Far Eastern Group meant the conglomerate took on ownership of SOGO.

In addition to the SOGO case, prosecutors are investigating whether two funeral service firms tried to bribe the independent legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇). Kuo Ke-ming is once again accused of being the middleman.

Reportedly, the two funeral companies aimed to use Chao to pressure the Construction and Planning Agency. The intention was to split their property off from the land now managed by Yangmingshan National Park, before turning it into a cemetery.

In 2014, Kuo established Twknowledge, a company specializing in risk management. In its introduction the company says it provides lobbying services for the law-making process. Its website is currently shuttered.