Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠) and her predecessor, Chen Ming-wen (陳明文), were released on bail early yesterday after being questioned overnight by prosecutors on corruption allegations linked to a herbal medicine biotech park project.
Chang was released on NT$3 million (US$100,000) bail and Chen on NT$1 million bail.
The two, both members of the Democratic Progressive Party, are suspected of having taken bribes from Chun Lung Development Co (春龍開發公司) during the bidding process for the Dapumei (大埔美) Intelligent Industrial Park at the Dapumei Herbs Park, which was a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project, between 2004 and 2006 in exchange for helping the developer win the tender.
Chen was the county chief who promoted the project, while Chang was a lawmaker when the bidding on the park was initiated.
Defending her innocence upon her release, Chang criticized the investigation conducted by the prosecutors as “very unfair” and described the search of Chiayi County Government offices a day earlier as “unprecedented” and “disorganized.”
The prosecutors mobilized more than 400 agents for the search of the county government on Tuesday.
She said the integrity of her administrative team would withstand scrutiny, as evidenced by the fact that all 25 county government employees summoned by prosecutors were eventually freed.
Meanwhile, Chen said he “has never taken a single penny” in the case and said the incident was a “mistake.”
A preliminary investigation found that the government and the private sector were each to provide NT$1.5 billion in funding for the project under the BOT model.
The Chiayi County Government, however, revoked its contract with the developer in July 2009 after it failed to complete the construction work on time.
In February last year, the county government decided to change the herbal medicine biotech park project into a precision-machinery industry park.
Investigators and prosecutors raided 51 locations and summoned more than 40 people for questioning on Tuesday. The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday applied for the detention of 13 people, including Chang’s sister, Chang Ying-chi (張瑛姬), county government general affairs section official Chiu Feng-ming (邱豐銘), as well as several professors and business owners, for suspected involvement in the Chiayi County bid.
In response to news that applications had gone out for the detention of her sister, Helen Chang said that no matter who was detained and whatever their background, she believed in their innocence.
Helen Chang said the prosecutors’ office was looking into an old case, adding that the case stemmed from the time when she was still a legislator, not a county commissioner.
“We hope there is still justice in the judicial system and hope that the prosecutors will be able to clear things up,” Helen Chang said, adding that she was not at liberty to comment further as the investigations were still ongoing. “The people are watching.”