Wed, Dec 26, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Life term sought for ex-NFA boss

FALL FROM GRACE:Huang Chi-min was seen as a hero after Typhoon Morakot, but now faces bribery charge. Prosecutors say he has not confessed or shown remorse

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff writer, with CNA

The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday indicted and requested life imprisonment for former National Fire Agency (NFA) director-general Huang Chi-min (黃季敏), who was charged with receiving bribes from contractors in several procurements for disaster-prevention equipment.

The graft case against Huang, who became something of a national hero after his handling of rescue efforts during Typhoon Morakot, is expected to be referred to the Taipei District Court today at the earliest.

Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office spokesman Huang Mo-hsin (黃謀信) said the money allocated for the procurement projects was earmarked for disaster prevention equipment and was public money meant to save lives.

“However, Huang Chi-min received bribes amounting to NT$19.24 million [US$660,500] for his own self-interest, and has shown no remorse or inclination to confess to his wrongdoings, which is why the office decided to seek the most severe punishment of a life sentence,” Huang Mo-hsin said.

Huang Chi-min, 60, who served as director-general of the agency between 2003 and 2009, is suspected of favoring certain contractors in nine procurement projects for disaster-prevention communications systems in return for bribes.

Following a three-year investigation launched on the heels of Huang Chi-min’s retirement from the agency in 2009, about 160 investigators on Aug. 29 raided his residence, his office at Formosa Plastics Corp (台塑) in Taipei — where he then served as a vice general manager before being suspended — and 39 other locations.

Huang Chi-min was also taken in for questioning on that day, along with more than 20 others, including his wife and brother, Chen Su-hsia (陳素霞) and Huang Wen-chou (黃文宙), agency officials and contractors.

Prosecutors have held the 60-year-old incommunicado since Aug. 30 for fear of possible collusion.

Also in detention are NFA Information Office director Tsai Mu-huo (蔡木火) and Shih Chien University associate professor Chin Li-peng (金力鵬), who is suspected of benefiting an unidentified contractor by rigging bids in exchange for a bribe of NT$1 million.

Aside from the August raids — which led to the discovery of 18 gold bars weighing a total of 17kg and worth close to NT$23 million at Huang Chi-min’s residence and office — prosecutors have conducted six other searches.

During a raid on Sept. 6, prosecutors seized an additional NT$900,000 in cash.

More valuables were discovered during a third search on Sept. 14, including two gold bars weighing 1kg each, seven pieces of gold jewelry and NT$4 million in cash, as well as ¥6 million (US$70,700), US$40,000 and HK$180,000 (US$23,200) in foreign banknotes.

Prosecutors have also seized NT$35 million that was wired from a domestic bank account belonging to Huang Wen-chou to an overseas account in Singapore, which was later transferred back to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are still looking into more allegations against Huang Chi-min, including a NT$40 million investment in a Taipei-based cram school that is suspected of being a front for money laundering, from which he receives an annual bonus of about NT$1 million.

Allegations made by the Chinese-language Next Magazine that Huang Chi-min bought his way from NFA deputy director-general to the head of the agency by giving a NT$10 million bribe to the then-first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) are also being investigated.

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