Fri, Jan 10, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Hsieh denies role in Chu's bribe scheme

ALLEGATIONS The mayor denied trying to get councilors to vote for the scandal-tainted speaker, saying he had little influence over them

By Lin Mei-Chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kaohsiung City Mayor Frank Hsieh speaks at a press conference yesterday, which he held to refute accusations that he asked city councilors to vote for independent candidate Chu An-hsiung in the election for the council's speaker.

PHOTO: CHANG CHUNG-YI, TAIPEI TIMES

Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) yesterday sought to clear himself from the vote-buying scandal connected to the council speaker's election, calling it common sense that no mayor would dare to manipulate the election.

Hsieh said he believed that political factors were behind attacks on him after the scandal erupted. Those who could not defeat him in the election campaign were now trying to bring about his downfall through smear tactics, he said.

"No mayor would have the nerve to peddle influence over the speaker election in the council on the grounds that [the mayor] would have a hard time in the council if the one he supported failed in his or her bid," Hsieh said at a news conference.

Known for his thorny relationship with the city council, from which he had been expelled three times, Hsieh said he was hardly in a position to influence the councilors.

Hsieh said that as the mayor he had to feel some regret for the scandal which has engulfed Kaohsiung's political life, but said that the incident might serve as a turning point for the betterment of city government operations.

"What was allowed in the past will no longer be permitted in the future," he said.

Almost 30 of the 44-member council have been accused of selling their votes in the Dec. 25 speakership election at NT$5 million each to scandal-ridden independent Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄).

Hsieh never stated a preference for any particular candidate before the election, but nevertheless reports have said that he endorsed Chu.

Hsieh countered the reports by showing a record of his telephone communications and his daily schedules. He said he had, in fact, contacted several DPP councilors, advising them not to vote for Chu, but the efforts proved to be in vain because "as long as the issue is money-related, no caucus leader has any control over the councilors."

Hsieh acknowledged he was aware that his aide, Wang Wen-cheng (王文正), the director of Kaohsiung's Civil Affairs Bureau, had been lobbying support for Chu.

Wang was detained on Tuesday on suspicion of approaching city councilors on Chu's behalf and later delivering the bribe money.

The mayor said he had warned Wang not to get involved, but Wang said he had agreed to help because he and Chu were old friends.

Prosecutors investigating the case discovered Wednesday that Hsieh had received a sum of NT$2.8 million from Hsu Wen-liang (許文良), the chief of the Yu Huang Temple (玉皇宮).

Prosecutors suspect the money was a payment in exchange for Hsieh's approval of the illegal construction of part of the temple.

Hsieh, yesterday, denied the accusations, saying the money had nothing to do with the temple's illegal construction, which the city government had started to demolish in August.

He indicated that the money was actually received in November, and the demolition was not stopped after the donation.

He said the money, which took the form of three checks, was a political donation from the temple during the election. Two checks were valued at NT$950,000 and one at NT$900,000.

According to Hsieh, the donation was made to the DPP's headquarters and wired to his campaign office later on.

But Hsieh's explanation contradicted Hsu's. Hsu reportedly told prosecutors that he wrote out two checks directly to Hsieh's campaign office in Kaohsiung.

Disagreeing with Hsieh's characterization of the money as a political donation, Hsu said it was Wang who took the initiative to ask for the money and who came to pick it up.

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