Sat, Jan 13, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Prosecutors indict Peng for graft

CORRUPTION Prosecutors say that Peng Pai-hsien syphoned off millions in money that should have gone to reconstruction efforts after the massive earthquake of 1999

By Jou Ying-cheng  /  STAFF REPORTER

Nantou District Prosecutors Office yesterday indicted Nantou County Commissioner Peng Pai-hsien (彭百顯) on charges of corruption and asked for a hefty 20-year sentence as punishment for his alleged crime.

Five county officials and 11 businessmen were indicted along with Peng.

Authorities continued to question Peng throughout the day and into the evening yesterday. As of press time, it was not yet decided whether Peng would be released on bail or continue to be held for further questioning. Peng has already been in detention for two months.

The prosecution said it requested the harsh sentence for Peng because he had taken advantage of the misfortune of others to make money for himself, as well as the fact that there were multiple charges against Peng.

Outside the district court offices, Peng's supporters rallied all day yesterday for his release. Riot police were called in to keep an eye on the situation but the protests remained peaceful.

Prosecutors alleged that Peng and his close aides had misappropriated over NT$13 million in quake relief funds.

"After the quake, many people willing to donate money were not aware of the distinctions between government relief funds and [Peng's] New Nantou (新南投) Foundation and the Nantou County Construction and Development Foundation (南投縣建設發展基金會)," Nantou divisional head prosecutor Hsu Sung-kuei (徐松奎) said.

"Peng and his confidential secretary, Cheng Su-ching (鄭素卿), and assistant Chen Ming-chuan (陳明娟), therefore, took the opportunity to remit NT$15.58 million of donation into accounts of Peng's two foundations. They also persuaded people who intended to donate money to government funds into giving their money to the two foundations," Hsu said.

In the latter case, the money defrauded amounted to some NT$13.52 million, Hsu said.

But those close to Peng refuted the charges.

"This is an absolutely absurd indictment; we cannot accept it," said Cheng Su-ching in an interview with TVBS.

She said after the quake, people were uneasy donating money to the government relief efforts because they thought that giving money to a private fund would be better for quake victims since the government response was bound to be slow.

"It was under these circumstance that we offered them the option of donating to the Nantou County Construction and Development Foundation," Cheng said.

She stressed that the foundation was committed to reconstruction work.

"We did not take a cent from the foundation funds, nor did the foundation get a cent from the county government or any governmental relief fund," she said.

Stella Chen (陳婉真), director of the county's Social Affairs Bureau, also said "the prosecution is misleading the public by indicating the foundations as if the money had come straight out of Peng's own pockets."

The prosecution has also alleged that Peng was behind bid rigging in several post-quake reconstruction projects, including that of the county government's temporary office building.

The indictment says Peng bypassed public bidding procedures and awarded the contracts to companies he favored and in exchange for political support.

The prosecution also requested a 10-year sentence for Cheng Su-ching, 10 years for Chen Ming-chuan, 20 years for the county government advisor Pai Hsi-min (白錫旼), 15 years for the county government's contractor for construction design Wu Cheng-hsun (吳政勳) and seven years for the county government's policy planning unit director Tsai Pi-yun (蔡碧雲).

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