Wed, Nov 30, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Court upholds former museum officials’ not guilty verdict

By Rich Chang and Hsiang Cheng-chen  /  Staff Reporters

The Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld a lower court’s ruling in which former National Palace Museum director Shih Shou-chien (石守謙) and 14 other people were found not guilty on charges of corruption regarding renovation work on the museum’s main exhibition hall.

Charges were brought against Shih, former museum deputy director Lin Po-ting (林柏亭), former museum chief secretary Hsueh Fei-yuan (薛飛源) and 12 others in 2007 over claims that they falsified the public bidding price, pre-selected certain companies to win the bid and leaked information about estimated construction costs.

In 2007, the Shihlin District Prosecutors’ Office asked the courts to sentence Shih, who is well-known in both academic and arts circles, to 15 years in prison on corruption charges for allegedly inflating the cost of the renovation project from NT$385 million (US$12.7 million) to NT$600 million.

In 2009, Shihlin prosecutors charged Shih again, saying that he had helped San Gung Co secure a NT$840,000 construction service fee and also helped Lend Lease Co win the bid.

In September, Shih, Lin and other museum officials were found not guilty on all the charges by the Shihlin District Court.

The High Court’s ruling yesterday said there were many mistakes in the prosecution’s indictment, adding that some of the prosecution’s charges either violated the law or lacked sufficient evidence.

The High Court said the prosecutors could still appeal yesterday’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

Commenting on the case, Judicial Reform Foundation executive director Lin Feng-cheng (林峰正) yesterday said that there have been many cases of charges being leveled against former officials of the former Democratic Progressive Party government, who were later found not guilty.

The number of these unsuccessful prosecutions shows that the charges were often based on weak evidence, he said.

Lawyer Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠) said there were several cases where former government officials were investigated and indicted by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division, only to be later found not guilty by the courts.

Kao called for a review into the manner in which the division conducts its investigations.

Additional reporting by Lin Chun-hung

Unsuccessful prosecutions of government officials

Case 1: Former deputy minister of national defense Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) was charged with leaking classified documents regarding a presidential state affairs fund case to then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Result: Taipei District Court found Ko not guilty in the first trial. In the second trial, the Taiwan High Court said in a final ruling on Aug. 17 last year that Ko was not guilty.

Case 2: Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) was charged with accepting NT$2.1 million (US$69,000) in bribes regarding the construction of a sanitary landfill and the expansion of the Yunlin branch of Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. Prosecutors requested that she be sentenced to 15 years in prison. She staged a hunger strike for 11 days, protesting what she said was a political prosecution.

Result: The Yunlin District Court found Su not guilty in April. Prosecutors filed an appeal on May 19.

Case 3: Former Presidential Office secretary-general Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) and former deputy minister of foreign affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) were charged with embezzling US$500,000 in diplomatic funds.

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