Investigators yesterday searched the offices of Taipei City Secretariat Director Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安) and the Department of New Construction as an investigation into a scandal surrounding the Xinsheng Overpass reconstruction project widened.
Led by prosecutors, Investigation Bureau officials raided a total of 11 locations, including the residence of a new construction department official surnamed Shih, the offices of Join Engineering Consultants (昭凌工程顧問公司), Kung Sing Engineering Corp (工信工程公司), Evergreen Construction Corp (長鴻營造公司), Hwang Chang General Contractor (皇昌營造公司) and the residences of officials associated with the construction companies.
Aside from his office, Yang’s two residences in Taipei were also raided.
Yang is the most senior Taipei City official to have been investigated so far, sparking media speculation that, as he is in charge of Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin’s (郝龍斌) official affairs, Hau was likely to be the next target of investigators.
Prosecutors said they seized a number of documents in the search, but did not intend to summon anyone for questioning.
This was the second round of searches targeting the city government and the construction companies since the scandal broke last month.
Asked about the raids, Hau said: “The case is under investigation and I respect the justice system.”
“We hope prosecutors will find out the truth as soon as possible,” Hau said at Taipei City Hall.
The probe into the scandal began last month, with the new construction department’s former director, Huang Hsi-hsun (黃錫薰), and a former section chief, Chen Chih-sheng (陳智盛), being detained for their alleged involvement.
Yesterday’s raids were prompted by prosecutors’ suspicions that top city government officials were involved in the case after they discovered that Chen was in possession of notes from the city’s Secretariat Office.
One note, which asked Chen to rephrase his comments on accusations that the city government overpaid for plants for the reconstruction project from “simple negligence” to “administrative negligence,” was part of the body of evidence prosecutors have collected in probing the scandal. After they discovered the note, the prosecutors suspected that top officials from the city government were involved in the case.
In related news, the city government yesterday said that the results of its internal investigation showed that no officials were involved in bribery or other illegal acts relating to allegations of kickbacks from overpriced flowers and plants purchased for the Taipei International Flora Expo.
The report, conducted by a task force formed last month by the city government to look into the disputed purchase prices for flowers for the expo and the NT$1.3 billion (US$41.4 million) Xinsheng Overpass reconstruction project, said the expo paid more than market price for some flowers because of maintenance and design fees.
Yang Shih-chin (楊石金), head of the city’s Department of Government Ethics, said that of 1,370 flowers and plants used in the expo, more than 130 were found to cost more than market price because they included charges for maintaining the plants.
Asked to comment on the credibility of the report, Hau said the task force also included experts from outside the city government and that the city government said members of the public were welcome to examine the report.
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