“No matter how high the levels of officials involved, how wide the scale of a case and how big the number of people who are alleged to be involved, the government will definitely not cover it up, delay [the investigation] nor twist [the accounts.] The probe should go wherever the evidence leads.”
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) made that promise on July 17 at a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting as he, as party chairman, spoke publicly for the first time about the corruption scandal surrounding former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世).
However, noting the progress, or lack thereof, made by the prosecutors in their probe of the case, raises the question whether Ma’s words were meant to be interpreted the other way around.
Members of the public have reason to be doubtful of the president’s sincerity in getting to the bottom of the Lin case, considering how little the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID) has achieved since Lin was taken into custody on July 2.
It has been almost two months since the allegations of Lin demanding and taking bribes first hit national headlines, yet a number of key individuals, including Lin’s father, Lin Hsien-pao (林仙保), and Vice President Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) sister-in-law, Hau Ying-chiao (郝英嬌), have yet to be questioned despite their reported roles in the case.
On Monday, the Taipei District Court, on grounds that Lin might collude with others to provide false testimony and destroy evidence, granted the SID’s request to extend his detention for another two months and to hold him incommunicado till Oct. 31.
Seeing how the SID has seemingly dragged its feet in questioning possible accomplices and probing funds relating to the alleged bribery, one wonders whether keeping Lin on ice for another two months may just be a diversionary tactic aimed at keeping the news about Lin from the public long enough for people to begin to forget about the case. That would allow the SID to wrap up the case with the focus on Lin and Lin alone. After all, he has reportedly confessed to having accepted NT$63 million (US$2.1 million) from a metal-recycling company owner in 2010 to secure a metal-recycling contract from state-controlled China Steel Corp.
According to a survey conducted by the Taiwan Thinktank late last month, Ma’s “integrity index” has taken a hit since the Lin case made headlines. When asked to rate the president’s integrity on a scale of zero to 10, Ma’s score fell from 5.84 in May to 5.43 last month.
The same survey also showed that half of the respondents were not happy with the performance of the SID, saying it had been “passive” in its probe into the case.
“It is really unfortunate that corruption happened, but what’s more important is the approach taken in tackling the case, which must be one of absolute determination in a bid to win back people’s trust,” Ma has said, asking the public “to be at ease and know that the government is absolutely confident that it could prevent similar corruption cases from happening again.”
If Ma truly is as serious about building a clean government and eradicating corruption as he says he is, the Lin case gives the SID and other investigators a great opportunity to show that they do have the teeth to go after a big case however high the levels of officials involved, wide the scale of the case and big the number of people allegedly involved.