The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division’s (SID) investigation into files relating to Yu Chang Biologics Co (宇昌生技股份有限公司), now known as TaiMed Biologics Co (中裕新藥股份有限公司), allegedly involving Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), could influence elections because of the political sensitivity of the issue, legal experts said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers accuse Tsai of manipulating the National Development Fund’s (NDF) investments in TaiMed when she was vice premier in 2007. She served as the chairperson of the biotech company several months after she stepped down from her post in May 2007.
While the DPP has accused the KMT of using the case to smear Tsai and undermine her chances of winning the presidential election, Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Christina Liu (劉憶如) on Wednesday said that the SID had a day earlier retrieved documents relating to the Yu Chang Biologics case.
According to Liu, the SID also took paperwork relating to two other companies — Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals Co (南華生技), which applied for NDF funding in 2005-2007, and TaiMed Biotech Fund (台懋生技創投), which applied for NDF funding in 2007-2008 — that the prosecution said could have links to the Yu Chang deal.
Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals Co was to be a pharmaceutical company founded in Taiwan by Tanox — a US-based biopharmaceutical company — chairperson Nancy Chang (唐南珊) and then-Euroc Venture Capital Co chairman Kao Yu-jen (高育仁) for the research and development of the TNX-355 drug.
TNX-355 is an anti-AIDS drug that may prevent HIV from breaching the immune system.
Officials familiar with the SID operation said the main point of the investigation was to clarify why the NDF refused Taiwan Biopharmaceuticals’ TNX-355 funding request, but provided funding to Yu Chang, which was importing and developing a similar drug from the US drug giant Genentech and later acquired Tanox in 2007.
The officials said another factor that raised suspicion was TaiMed Biotech Fund holding three seats on the board of directorate, while in terms of funding, TaiMed only invested NT$70 million (US$2.3 million), while Mega Bank invested NT$300 million, E.Sun Fund and China Synthetic Rubber Co both invested NT$200 million and Yi Tai Fund Co (宜泰投資股份有限公司) invested NT$330 million.
Officials asked how TaiMed received three seats while investing the least amount of money, adding that the SID aimed to clarify whether the TaiMed Biotech Fund’s application was eligible under the Biotech and New Pharmaceutical Development Statute (生技新藥產業發展條例), why the NDF approved an investment of NT$875 million in TaiMed Biotech Fund and whether the funding process of the NDF’s investment in Yu Chan was legal.
The SIP said yesterday it would handle the case strictly according to the law.
“We are colorless, neither blue nor green,” SIP spokesman Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達) said in response to press queries on the SIP’s move on Tuesday.
“Seizing the relevant files is necessary to collect all the evidence, prevent it from being destroyed or forged, and allow the truth to be discovered later,” Chen said, but stopped short of saying the SIP has officially launched a probe into the case.
Both the KMT and DPP have exchanged rhetorical fire over the issue, which has flared up just one month before the Jan. 14 presidential election.
Commenting on the case, former Taipei District Court Judge Wu Meng-liang (吳孟良) said that since the SIP’s decision to seize the documents has been reported by media and hence made known to the public, even if the documents were only taken to safeguard them, this could still impact on voters, especially those who are neutral.
Lawyer Hsu Wen-pin (許文彬) said an SIP investigation into a politically sensitive case, especially one that concerned a presidential candidates, should be like “a swimming duck” — quiet and serene on the surface, while working hard unseen, and not publicizing any aspect of the investigation.
“Otherwise, it would be hard [for the public] not to suspect the judiciary system is intervening in the elections,” Hsu said.
Former Executive Yuan administer without portfolio Hsu Chih-hsiung (許志雄), said he found the timing of the SID’s move suspicious.
He said the Yu Chang case did not just happen today, adding that investigations by prosecution units would not normally make such large movements in the run-up to elections.
“Does the SIP have to be so hasty? One can’t help but find it suspicious,” he said.
The SIP is directed by Prosecutor-General Huang Shyh-ming (黃世銘), said Hsu, adding that since Huang was once a politically-appointed deputy minister of justice, “whether the prosecution units would have any independence during the investigation also comes under question.”
Additional reporting by Lin Chun-hung, Chen Mei-ying and CNA
Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer
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