TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Now involving dozens of people, at least 20 separate investigations into alleged support buying or fraudulent endorsements for independent presidential candidate Terry Gou (郭台銘) are now on record, after prosecutors detained their latest suspect on Tuesday (Nov. 7).
Taipei prosecutors said the latest case involves a man surnamed Shih (石) who had been detained under suspicion of paying NT$500 (US$15.50) each for around 1,000 signatures in support of Gou’s presidential bid. Gou continues to gather signatures after his campaign said it crossed the threshold needed to register as an independent in early October.
Investigations of illegally obtained support now run the political and geographical gamut. From Taipei to the outlying islands of Kinmen, supporters of the Kuomintang, the Democratic Progressive Party, and Gou himself, have been questioned, detained, or charged by prosecutors about the allegations.
Prosecutors say incentives offered to the public in return for signatures in support of Gou so far include cash, rice wine, and toilet paper. One case in Yilan announced by prosecutors on Nov. 1 involved two men using IDs other than their own to sign in support of Gou.
So far Gou’s campaign has denied any connection to or knowledge of illegal signature gathering. Speaking to Taiwan News on Wednesday, International Policy Advisory Group Director and lawyer Stephen Tan (譚耀南) said prosecutors would likely focus on financial links between suspects and the Gou campaign.
Tan said that from a legal perspective, there would only be consequences for Gou himself if such a link could be found. However, from a “common-sense perspective,” Tan said it is unlikely that a prosecutor would find it reasonable that all of those suspected of using illegal means to gather signatures did so by themselves.
On the Central Electoral Commission’s role in determining signature fraud, Tan said that if there was clear evidence that signatures had been forged — such as photocopied signatures — the commission could take action. However, given that most suspected illegal signature gathering has not been done this way, Tan said investigations will need to be carried out by prosecutors.
Tan said that now it is an issue of timing, and the electoral commission will likely have to wait until after the election before the results of investigations are clear.