Sat, Oct 04, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Ma puts reputation on the line

PERSONAL GUARANTEE The Taipei mayor said he did not intend to lie about the number of times he visited Fubon Financial officials and that he'll quit if it is determined he cut a deal with the company

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

TSU legislators Liao Pen-yen, second left, Lo Chih-ming, second right, and Ho Min-hao, right, yesterday ask Control Yuan member Ku Den-mei to look into Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's visits to Fubon Financial Holding Co's private club.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday denied that he had cut a deal with Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控) and said he would resign if the allegation were proven true.

Ma has been accused of striking a deal with Fubon over its merger with TaipeiBank and his plan for the city to sell Fubon shares to plug a hole in its budget.

He insisted that he went to Fubon facilities only five times, once to Fubon's office and four times to the company's private club.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) City Councilor Lo Chung-shen (羅宗勝) said he is sure Ma visited the sites at least seven times.

Ma said, "The point is whether I cut a deal with Fubon. But I know I didn't. My heart is crystal clear. I have asked the city government's Bureau of Ethics to start an internal investigation, and I will cooperate fully with any external investigation.

"I never intended to lie about my visits to Fubon. I just did not explain everything clearly enough the first time," he said.

"I guarantee with my good reputation that I have not cut a deal with Fubon, otherwise I will resign from my post to take responsibility," Ma said.

He said he was not in touch with Fubon before the merger with TaipeiBank was completed on Aug. 8 last year. According to Ma, his visit to a Fubon club one month later was for social reasons and designed to ensure the welfare of the original TaipeiBank employees.

"Over the past year, the merger has proceeded well. The city government has not been selling the shares at a cheap price, but instead the shares it's got in Fubon have increased NT$9.6 billion in value," Ma said.

Ma's most controversial engagement was a meeting on Aug. 11 with Fubon president Tsai Ming-chung (蔡明忠). One week after the meeting, the city government decided it would sell 400 million shares in Fubon.

Ma said the city's plan to sell the shares was not related to the merger and cannot go ahead without approval from city council.

"When the city government was mapping out its budget for next year, there was a shortage of NT$13 billion and the city government is close to its debt ceiling," he said.

"We want to sell off the 400 million Fubon shares. But this plan still needs to be approved by the council, and the council will discuss the budget only at the end of the year," Ma said.

Meanwhile, Lo went to the Control Yuan yesterday to ask that the watchdog investigate Ma.

Control Yuan members Lin Shu-chi (林時機) and Lin Chiu-shan (林秋山), however, had already applied to initiate an investigation.

Four other DPP city councilors, Wang Shih-chien (王世堅), Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠), Lu Ying-ying (呂瀅瀅) and Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), also went to the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office yesterday to file a malfeasance lawsuit against Ma.

"Ma has lied about his visits to Fubon's private club and his credibility is in doubt. We want Mayor Ma to explain everything clearly and the investigators to find out the truth," Wang said.

Ma was also criticized for enjoying expensive meals. Media reports accused Ma of eating shark's fin when dining with Fubon officials.

"Since I was minister of justice, I have avoided ordering shark's fin for ecological reasons. I did have the dish when I dined with the Fubon people, but I was the guest then, and I did not decide on the menu," Ma said.

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