Sat, Nov 18, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Ma pledges to step down if indicted

HIS OWN TRAP The `black gold exclusion clause' that had been beefed up under Ma could cost him his post as party chairman amid a swirl of corruption allegations

By Mo Yan-chih and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said he would resign from his post as the KMT chairman if he were indicted by prosecutors on corruption charges.

"According to KMT regulations, my party membership will be suspended if I am indicted," Ma said at a municipal event in Beitou.

Ma was referring to the party's "black gold exclusion clause."

Under Ma's chairmanship, the regulations were tightened to impose tougher restrictions on party members and candidates, stating that KMT members would be forced out of the party if indicted.

The old regulations stated that a member could only be suspended if found guilty in a trial.

Ma declined to say whether he would also resign as mayor.

"We will talk about this at a proper time. Right now we are focusing on clarifying the situation as soon as possible," he said later at the city hall.

Ma's eight-year term as Taipei mayor will finish at the end of next month.

Acknowledging that he was "not feeling so great" about the scandal, Ma dismissed the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) accusations that his savings have recently increased rapidly.

"I already made public my savings records, on May 19. The time to declare my property again is in December," Ma said, adding that he would take the opportunity to make public his property at that time.

Ma explained that most of the increase in his property holdings came from his own personal wealth, saying that both he and his wife belong to a high-income group, and have been too busy to spend their money. As such, the two are able to save most of their incomes, he said.

DPP lawmakers yesterday accused Ma of disposing of his assets after he came under suspicion for embezzling public money.

"A staffer of [Taipei] Fubon Bank told me that Ma had sent certain sums of money, each above NT$500,000 (US$15,165), to social groups as personal donations," DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) told a press conference.

DPP lawmakers estimated that Ma might have embezzled some NT$17.65 million from the mayoral special allowance fund by diverting half of the fund, or NT$170,000, into his personal account every month since he assumed office.

"Ma has to explain why he chose to make the donations at this time," she added.

Earlier yesterday, dozens of DPP lawmakers called press conferences one after another attacking irregularities in Ma's use of his mayoral fund.

DPP Legislator Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said Ma didn't dare to disclose the original receipts for the fund as many of them were for his personal use.

"A secret source told me that Ma had sought reimbursement from the public fund for his razor blades. Someone also told me that about 11 high-level city government officials get together every night to collude in false confessions for the irregularities," Hsu said.

Taipei City Government Secretariat Director Lee Shu-te (李述德) later yesterday denied Hsu's claims.

When asked to release copies of the receipts, Lee once again refused.

"If we published the copies, what would the prosecutors think?" he asked.

Meanwhile, Ma told the press last night that he had decided to donate NT$10 million to 11 public welfare groups using part of the money from his special allowance fund that did not require receipts.

"I have donated NT$6 million [yesterday] and will donate NT$4 million on Monday," he said.

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