Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Kong claims innocence, says he will leave

LEAVING, BUT WHEN?The embattled FSC chairman said he would leave his position to protect his reputation, but did not say when he would step down

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kong Jaw-sheng, the nation's top financial regulator, talks to the media during a press conference yesterday in Taipei.

PHOTO: AP

Suspended Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) Chairman Kong Jaw-sheng (龔照勝) yesterday refused to say if he would resign, but suggested that he might leave his post instead, which would leave the position filled by the acting chairman until the current term ends in 2008.

"I have been suspended and I will leave ... it is impossible for me to return to the post," Kong told reporters yesterday.

"I respect the Cabinet's decision. But I came in [to the position of FSC chairman] with a clean reputation and I hope to leave with one," Kong said.

He repeated these sentiments several times during the press conference, but shied away from giving a date for his resignation.

Stressing that he held himself to high moral standards and had a clear conscience, Kong said: "I am in this situation today because I got in the way of certain interest groups as the head of an independent financial supervisor, whose duties always involve interests worth tens of billions of dollars."

The official, who said he was politically naive, declined to identify the "interest groups" to which he referred.

Looking solemn but tired, Kong made the remarks at a media briefing yesterday after three days of silence following the Cabinet's unexpected decision to suspend him late last Friday.

Kong was questioned for about 13 hours and released on bail of NT$500,000 (US$15,800) last Thursday by the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, which is investigating claims he conducted public business for private gain during his chairmanship at the state-run Taiwan Sugar Corp (Taisugar, 台糖) between December 2003 and June 2004.

He was accused of awarding Taisugar's upscale cosmetics franchise to a certain company without going through the regulatory procurement process as well as bypassing government procurement requirements and hiring his sister-in-law as a paid consultant to the company's coffee shop business.

Kong was nominated to chair the FSC by the premier at the time, Yu Shyi-kun, and approved by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in June 2004.

As the position of FSC chairman has a four-year tenure, and the nation's highest financial regulator is supposed to be immune to political influence in order to safeguard the independent status of financial policy-making, some have questioned whether it is possible for Kong to be forcibly removed.

The confrontation between Kong and the Cabinet appeared to escalate yesterday as the government said it stood by its decision on Kong's suspension.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) had briefed Chen, who fully understood and supported the decision to suspend Kong, Cabinet Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said.

The ruling was made with prudence and legitimacy, and would not be changed, Cheng said, adding that the Cabinet expected Kong to make a "wise decision" as soon as possible.

Denying the allegations against him, Kong said it did not make sense that he would give up a well-paid job at an international investment banking business to make relatively small profits through corruption as a public servant on a much smaller salary.

Kong spent 20 years in the financial industry before entering the public sector, serving as a national manager for Credit Suisse First Boston and president of Lehman Brothers Holding Inc's Taiwan unit.

In light of recent developments, legislators are planning to amend regulations and set up a mechanism to dismiss corrupt officials who are in positions that enjoy political immunity.

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