The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday began probing the purchase plans for the Xinsheng Overpass reconstruction project, charging five people with corruption after searching more than 20 sites.
Prosecutors yesterday morning led agents from the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau to search a total of 27 locations, including the New Construction Department, Join Engineering Consultants (昭凌顧問工程公司), Kung Sing Engineering Corp (工信工程公司), Evergreen Construction Corp (長鴻營造公司), Hwang Chang Builds (皇昌營造公司) and residences of officials associated with the construction companies.
Investigators questioned 16 people, including former New Construction Department director Huang Hsi-hsun (黃錫薰), New Construction Department Vice Director Lin Ching-fan (林慶釩), former New Construction Department chief engineer Chang Li-yan (章立言) and officials of the construction companies.
The interrogations were still proceeding at press time last night. Of the 16 people, Huang, Lin, Chang Li-yan, former New Construction Department section chief Chen Chih-sheng (陳智盛) and Join Engineering Consultants employee Lee Mei (李媺) are standing as defendants, while the rest are witnesses.
The Xinsheng Overpass scandal is part of prosecutors’ investigation into the exorbitant prices paid by the city government for flowers to be planted under the highway.
The investigation also follows a complaint by a group of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilors alleging possible negligence of duty and possible acts of bribery by Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) in handling the overpriced project.
The city government also formed a task force to look into the project and last week sent project contractor Join Engineering Consultants and the three former officials with the department to prosecutors for further investigation.
Soon after the prosecutors searched the department, Hau visited to show his support to department workers and accused the opposition party of politicizing the project and the flora expo to defeat him in November’s Taipei mayoral election.
“We should face all the challenges and criticism over the mistakes we made. However, I am sorry that city workers in the city government, especially at the department, have to be placed under so much pressure because of the election,” he said.
Hau said he expected the prosecutors to complete their investigation as soon as possible, adding that he believed the civil servants in the case were innocent.
While Hau promised to face the disputes surrounding the overpass project and expo, Taipei City’s Public Works Bureau proposed a new regulation on Monday night to ban media and city councilors from entering expo sites without making an appointment.
The proposed regulation required reporters and city councilors to make reservations with the expo’s organizing committee before entering exhibition sites. The reservation would take about three to 10 days for approval.
The proposal was drafted amid a string of DPP accusations and criticism against the expo. Since the scandal of the overpriced flowers broke last month, DPP Taipei City councilors have made frequent trips to different expo sites around the city to inspect the construction projects.
The city government’s latest move irritated the DPP Taipei City Council caucus, with Taipei City councilors Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏) and Lee Ching-feng (李慶鋒) accusing the city government of violating councilors’ rights to oversee municipal projects.