Tue, Nov 14, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Official named in quake graft probe

FINGER POINTING The Nantou County commissioner was questioned and his office raided by prosecutors in connection with a corruption case linked to the misappropriation of earthquake reconstruction funds

By Jou Ying-cheng  /  STAFF REPORTER

An investigator takes away boxes of documents during a raid on the residence of Nantou County Commissioner Peng Pai-hsien yesterday.

PHOTO: HSIEH CHIEH-YU, TAIPEI TIMES

Prosecutors yesterday formally named Nantou County Commis-sioner Peng Pai-hsien (彭百顯) as being suspected of involvement in misappropriation of 921 earth-quake relief funds and the benefitting of certain companies in connection with post-quake construction of two government buildings by alleged unlawful contracting procedures.

The Nantou District Prosecutors' Office announced this development at a press conference held yesterday afternoon following raids on Peng's office and home, several county government departments and a foundation chaired by Peng.

Commissioner Peng, a political independent, in the evening went to the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau's (MJIB) Nantou office to be questioned, without appearing in public.

He had been insisting that he and officials of Nantou County Government and of the foundation were innocent and had called the prosecutors' action "political persecution."

As of press time last night he was still being questioned.

In addition to Peng, his wife, Wu Wen-wan(吳文婉), was among 16 people questioned during or after the morning raids. Others included four government officials, a foundation cashier and 10 contractors of reconstruction projects.

The prosecutors had already searched the county government offices once on Oct. 16. Since then three people have been detained by the district court, including Peng's special assistants Wu Cheng-hsun (吳政勳) and Chen Ming-chuan (陳明娟) and a construction contractor.

Nantou divisional head prosecutor Hsu Sung-kuei (徐松奎) said during the press conference that the prosecution's action yesterday was a follow-up to previous searches and interviews and was in accordance with evidence already found.

"We have found that some financial donations from the public [to the government relief funds] went to two [private] foundations chaired by Commissioner Peng," Hsu said.

He said prosecutors, investigators and police officers went yesterday morning to Peng's office and asked the commissioner to provide account books and other related materials regarding the operation of the foundations, but Peng refused.

"We therefore began the search in accordance with the law and have seized important materials," Hsu said.

Prosecutors at first asked Peng to go with them for questioning but Peng declined, saying that he had to attend the county council session.

Prosecutors therefore interviewed Peng in his office for an hour until around 9:30am and took away a computer and three cartons of materials from his office.

Hsu said they had Peng sign a subpoena promising to attend questioning in the afternoon.

At the same time,another group of prosecutors and investigators searched Peng's home and left with Peng's wife, Wu.

But Hsu stressed that Wu was not summoned as a suspect but invited to "assist the investigation."

Prosecutors suspect that there have been funds flowing between the accounts of the county government and the foundations.

Hsu said the destinations of relief funds remained mysterious and the foundations had failed to provide complete information concerning the use of the money.

But two weeks ago, when Peng's second special assistant was detained, the county government announced that the funds of the foundations and county government were separate.

According to Hsu, moreover, the prosecutors have found evidence suggesting that Peng had favored certain firms in the contracting of construction projects for the county government's new building and a temporary building.

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