Sat, Jun 03, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Prosecutor-general’s curious U-turn

By Wu Ching-chin 吳景欽

Prosecutor-General Yen Da-ho (顏大和) has lodged an extraordinary appeal in a case involving former minister of transportation and communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪).

Yen’s main rationale for doing so is that according to judicial conditions, different courts might have different opinions as to what constitutes quid pro quo in corruption cases, so they might make inconsistent decisions on the issue, even when dealing with similar cases.

Parties involved in such cases have asked many times for such an appeal to be lodged, but their requests have been rejected each time, so it is puzzling that the prosecutor-general has agreed to do so in this case.

In situations where a civil servant is suspected of corruption, it is not enough for prosecutors to provide evidence to show that the accused has received benefits — they must also provide proof of a corrupt quid pro quo relationship.

Kuo is accused of having received bribes in relation to the bidding process for the refurbishment and management of Taipei Railway Station.

If all she received was tea, it could not be considered a quid pro quo exchange, because no matter how expensive the tea might be, it would still be completely out of proportion to the benefit that the bidder would gain by winning the contract.

Even if there really was US$20,000 in the tea canister, a synthetic judgement would have to be made based on the parties’ subjective intentions, the objective situation and the benefits that would accrue from winning the contract, and in this respect it is unavoidable that different judges would treat the case differently.

The first and second-instance trials reached “not guilty” verdicts on the grounds that the money had not been found, or because there was no quid pro quo exchange that could constitute corruption.

However, after the Taiwan High Court remitted the case to a lower court for retrial, the lower court reached a different verdict, finding the defendants guilty.

The lower court’s grounds for determining whether Kuo had received a bribe, ie, whether US$20,000 had been placed in the tea canister, was derived from a highly contentious and dubious wiretap.

Because the suspects had their telephones tapped for a long time, the law enforcement agencies must have gathered a large amount of information, but they only presented the parts that were unfavorable to the accused to support the allegations. Besides being fragments taken out of context, this was a kind of arbitrary selection.

Consequently, the evidence can only be hearsay and as such is scarcely admissible in court.

Regrettably, the court that conducted the retrial not only failed to disallow the evidence, but determined that the defendant had indeed received US$20,000, based on piecemeal snippets.

This is a case of failing to address the whole picture.

The other evidence upon which the court relied to find Kuo guilty was a statement made by the person who supposedly offered her the bribe.

However, his statement was made under conditions in which the investigator continually prompted him about the evidence.

The statement is also inconsistent and full of contradictions, as well as having been made under coaching by the investigators. As such, it has no evidential value.

Nonetheless, the judges were of the opinion that the witness bore no grudges against the accused and therefore had no reason to bear false witness against her.

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