Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 1 News List

MOI Vice Minister Yen detained, resigns

CABLE-CAR SCANDAL Yen Wan-chin is the most senior political appointee in the DPP government to be caught up in a corruption probe. The DPP will also investigate him

By Rich Chang and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Vice Minister of the Interior Yen Wan-chin, who was detained by the Taipei District Court yesterday on suspicion of taking bribes in connection with the construction of a cable car system in Beitou, is shown giving a speech on Feb. 27.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Vice Minister of the Interior Yen Wan-chin (顏萬進) was detained by the Taipei District Court yesterday on suspicion of taking bribes in connection with the construction of a cable car system in Taipei's Beitou District.

The former director of the Yangmingshan National Park Service Center, Tsai By-lu (蔡佰祿), and two other officials were detained along with Yen.

"Yen behaved suspiciously during the investigation. He might destroy or falsify evidence, or confer with the other defendants if he was able to communicate with them, so the Taipei District Court approved the prosecutors' application to take Yen into custody," Taipei District Court spokesman Liu Shou-sung (劉壽嵩) said yesterday.

Yen is the highest level political appointee in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government to be investigated for corruption.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) accepted his resignation yesterday.

Yen had previously served as deputy DPP secretary-general and the director of the party's Chinese affairs department.

DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday that the party would soon launch its own investigation into Yen's activities. If it is proven that Yen was involved in bribery, the party will expel him, Yu said.

Yen is a member of the New Tide faction and leader William Lai (賴清德) said yesterday that the faction was astounded at Yen's detention. However, he said, the faction would not view the incident as the result of political infighting.

The investigation into Yen centers around the plan to construct a cable car system connecting Beitou with Yangmingshan National Park.

Last December the Rich Development Corp, a construction firm, won a build-operate-transfer bid to construct the cable car system. It proposed building four cable car stations, and the Yangmingshan National Park Service Center granted the firm permits for construction in March. The company began construction work in May.

Soon after the permits had been awarded, however, Taipei prosecutors received complaints alleging that the permits had been awarded illegally and alleging bribery.

Prosecutors said their investigation led them to suspect that Yen knew that the company failed to qualify for the construction permit and needed to improve its proposal and that he asked Tsai to grant the permits anyway.

Prosecutors said they had monitored Rich Development's telephone calls and heard people talk about bribery.

Prosecutors said they had also found it suspicious that Tsai approved permits for a total of 183 hot spring hotels and restaurants to be built around the cable car stations just a few days before he retired from his park job last month.

The permits were granted without environmental impact assessments being conducted, which was illegal, prosecutors said.

On Wednesday prosecutors led a search of 26 locations for evidence, including Yen's office and the Yangmingshan National Park Service Center.

Meanwhile, the Taipei City Government yesterday denied any involvement in the corruption scandal and said that it had followed all regulations in planning and executing the project.

Lee Shu-chuan (李四川), director of the Bureau of Public Works' new construction department, said the original cable car project, which was approved by the Executive Yuan in 1995, included the construction of a cable car system from Qinshui Park (親水公園) in Xinbeitou to Yangmingshan National Park, cable car stations and stores, but did not include the construction of hot spring hotels.

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