Sun, Jan 14, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Peng denies wrongdoing

ACCUSATION Saying that he was innocent of graft charges levelled against him, the Nantou county commissioner was released on bail yesterday

STAFF WRITER , WITH REUTERS

Upon his release early yesterday morning, Nantou County Comm-issioner Peng Pai-hsien (彭百顯) immediately claimed he was innocent and spoke out against what he called the politicization of his alleged bribery case.

On Friday prosecutors recommended Peng receive a 20-year jail sentence, but Peng, who had spent nearly two months in detention during the corruption probe, adamantly denied any wrongdoing.

"No matter whether it's charges of corruption or embezzlement, is there a single penny in Peng Pai-hsien's pocket?" Peng asked in televised comments after being freed on bail.

Peng also pointed out that many mayors and county commissioners, including those of Hsinchu and Tainan, have been indicted recently on corruption charges, but none of them were taken into custody. Only he was held for two months before his indictment, implying, he said, that the case is politically motivated.

Peng was released on NT$2 million bail at 12:30am yesterday morning after prosecutors indicted him for corruption and embezzlement of funds earmarked for victims of the 921 earthquake.

Nantou County was the region worst affected by the massive earthquake that killed a total of 2,297 people.

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

As further evidence that the case is groundless, Peng said that prosecutors can receive a bonus of NT$6 million for indicting a county commissioner. Thus they are prone to make nonsensical accusations, he said.

Peng was once a close associate of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), but he left the DPP after it failed to nominate him to stand in the election for Nantou county commissioner. Running as an independent, he subsequently won the election by a narrow margin.

During the last 12 days of his incarceration, Peng had fasted, and he appeared pale and weak upon first emerging from the court. Supported by his wife, Wu Wen-wan (吳文婉), he walked unsteadily, but the sight of his supporters raised his spirits immediately.

He vowed to get back to work as soon as possible, saying bitterly that prosecutors had accused him of prolonging people's suffering in the wake of the earthquake and failing to work diligently for the public welfare.

"I have continuously worked 16-hour days since the earthquake struck a year ago. If that isn't diligently working for the people, what is?" Peng said.

On Friday, prosecutors also indicted six other officials and 10 property developers, recommending jail terms ranging from one to 15 years for their roles in the multi-million Taiwan dollar corruption scandal.

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