Reversing its previous decision, the Taipei District Court yesterday granted prosecutors’ request to detain Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如), a confidante of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) who stands accused of taking bribes related to a high-profile Taipei development project.
Following a four-hour hearing and three-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the court, which on Friday night released Lai on NT$1.2 million (US$40,260) bail, ruled yesterday evening that Lai presented a flight risk and could collude with others to change their testimony, and decided that she should be detained. Many suspicious points remain, the court added, including that Lai claimed the NT$1 million she received from a contractor was a political donation and not a bribe, although she did not report any such donation.
Lai, former Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems official Jia Er-ching (賈二慶) and construction contractor Cheng Hung-dao (程宏道) are facing allegations that they were involved in corruption in the bidding process for the Taipei Twin Towers (台北雙子星) project.
The company they allegedly backed, Taipei Gateway International Development (太極雙星), won the tender in October last year with a NT$70 billion bid, but it lost its rights to the project last month, when it failed to put up a performance guarantee by the required deadline.
The court yesterday ordered that Cheng also be detained.
After the court hearing yesterday, Lai’s attorney told the press that Lai did not accept the reasons the court gave for detaining her and asked him to appeal the decision to the Taiwan High Court.
Prior to entering the court hearing yesterday morning, Lai said she would fully cooperate in the investigation to clear her name.
Prosecutors allege that Lai had struck a deal with the consortium to receive a NT$10 million bribe in three installments — NT$1 million as a down payment, NT$3 million after Taipei Gateway International Development had signed the contract with the Taipei City Government to build the Twin Towers and NT$6 million when construction started.
Lai said that she received the NT$1 million in 2011, but said she considered it to be a political donation. She said that she returned the money after realizing that it came from the consortium.
Lai has resigned from all of her KMT posts. She was the director of Ma’s KMT chairman’s office, deputy head of the party’s information department and a member of the KMT Central Standing Committee.
Additional reporting by CNA