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Mayor Hsu faces probe over alleged profiteering

Mayor Hsu faces probe over alleged profiteering
Keelung City Mayor Hsu Tsai-li (許財利) and eight others were subpoenaed yesterday for questioning by prosecutors and investigators from the Investigation Bureau in a scandal involving an alleged land procurement deal by the city government in 2003.

"We subpoenaed a total of nine people today to find out whether the case constituted profiteering," said Prosecutor Lai Cheng-sheng of Keelung Public Prosecutors' Office.

Besides Hsu, his wife, daughter and daughter-in-law were also subpoenaed yesterday to assist prosecutors and investigators in their investigation of the case.

The land procurement deal became a controversy during the local government election last December as Hsu, who was seeking another term, was accused by his opponents of profiteering in the sale of lands to the city administration.

Lin Cheng-ming, a former business partner of Hsu's, claimed that they had jointly bought the land, and that Hsu had improperly profited to the tune of NT$38 million from the sale of the land to the Keelung City Government.

After purchasing the property at a cost of NT$47 million, Hsu sold it to the city government at a price of NT$85 million, ignoring, in the process, the rule that mayors should not engage in any transactions with the city administration, Lin claimed during the mayoral election campaign last December.

Relations soured

The relationship between Hsu and Lin apparently soured after the mayor allegedly transferred ownership of the property to his son, excluding Lin from the deal with the city government.

Despite coming under heavy fire from his two challengers - Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) of pan-blue People First Party and Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘), who represented the pan-green parties - over the alleged deal, Hsu was re-elected. Political analysts and local media have speculated that the full support of Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to Hsu was the key to Hsu's victory.

Prosecutor Lai explained that his colleagues made the decision to summon Hsu and others yesterday for questioning based on the investigators' progress in collecting evidence related to the case. Investigators also searched seven locations, including Hsu's home and office, yesterday.

Despite Lai's explanation however, Legislator Liu expressed regret over the prosecution's decision not to act until yesterday.

"Without sufficient evidence, the prosecution would not have subpoenaed people and conduct such a large scale search," Liu commented, implying that there must be evidence of the mayor's involvement in the case.

Liu also suggested that KMT Chairman Ma might have to shoulder some responsibility for Hsu's suspected misdeeds, as he gave Hsu full support during the election campaign.

In response, Ma said that he supports the efforts of the prosecuting attorneys and investigators to bring the facts of the scandal to light.

"It would be best to wait for the results of the investigation before (the party) could consider any action toward Hsu," Ma responded.