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Taipower spends NT$16 million on scented candles from Su's Swedish son-in-law

Over half of Taipower committee's budget spent on scented candles from company run by Su's Swedish son-in-law

Su I-han (left), Johansson (right). (Facebook, Vana Living photo)

Su I-han (left), Johansson (right). (Facebook, Vana Living photo) (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After Secretary-General to the President Su Jia-chuan (蘇嘉全) resigned amid bribery allegations, news broke on Sunday (Aug. 2) that a scented candle company run by his daughter and Swedish son-in-law received nearly NT$16 million (US$544,000) from state-owned Taiwan Power Company (Taipower).

On Sunday, Su tendered his resignation amid allegations that his nephew, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清), was among six politicians who took bribes from Lee Heng-long (李恆隆) in his bid to regain ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store chain. As of Sunday, the suspects were being held incommunicado as they face corruption charges for accepting tens of millions of Taiwan dollars in bribes.

In addition to Su's nephew, news broke that day that a scented candle company run by his eldest daughter Su I-han (蘇㛄馠) and his son-in-law Robin Johansson called Vana Living Inc. allegedly received NT$15.85 million from Taipower in the first half-year of the company's establishment, reported Newtalk. In response, Taipower responded that the purchase of perfume candle gift boxes was ordered by the firm's TPC Employee Welfare Committee.

Taipower denied that the purchase had any connection with Taipower's business operations. It also denied that the head of Taipower had anything to do with the order.

The TPC Employee Welfare Committee for its part claimed that the purchase of the gifts was made through a public selection process that was "in compliance with procedures, and was fair and reasonable." According to a statement released by the committee, all procurements are meant to be made at a price lower than the market price in order to ensure the maximum benefit for employees.

The committees claimed that the purchase was "handled through an open, fair procurement procedure, which was in line with the spirit of public interest and procurement efficiency." It added that in order to meet the requirement that the annual budget should be used to the fullest possible extent in the current year, the committed made "appropriate budget plans based on the balance of welfare funds and expenses."

According to a report by the committee, the remaining balance by the end of 2017 was estimated to be about NT$30 million. During a committee meeting, it was agreed that scented candle gift boxes would be given out to all employees.

After reviewing information on the internet, the purchase was placed directly with Vana Living Inc., which imported the candles. The committee claims that the purchase contract was signed for a price that is about 3.5 percent lower than the market price.

The price per package was NT$585, and after including packaging, freight, tax, and batteries, the total price purchase price came out to about NT$15.85 million. Thus, the committee spent over half of its remaining budget on the scented candles.

The committee emphasized that gifts are purchased every Lunar New Year to give to employees. Gifts are also given to employees on special days such as International Worker's Day and the company's anniversary.

On the official Vana Living Facebook page Johansson on Sunday responded to the controversy by saying that he was very sad and puzzled by the report. He said that he does not understand Taiwan’s political environment and is not clear on whether Taiwan’s business culture has some complicated taboos.

Johansson claimed that he had never actively contacted Taiwan's government agencies and state-owned enterprises for procurement. He emphasized that the online platform is open to everyone and anyone who likes the company's products can purchase them through its site.