Fri, Dec 16, 2011 - Page 1 News List

2012 ELECTIONS: SID probe may influence voters, legal experts say

EXPLANATIONS:Officials familiar with the SID case said one aim was to find out why the NDF refused to fund one anti-AIDS firm but agreed to fund Yu Chang

By Yang Kuo-wen and Lin Ching-chuan  /  Staff Reporters

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.

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