Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) stepped down last night over his alleged use of influence to stop a prosecutor from appealing a breach of trust case involving Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) after Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) allegedly asked a favor of him for Ker.
Tseng’s announcement of his resignation at a 9:47pm press conference came only after Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) took the issue to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) earlier yesterday evening, after Tseng expressed no intention of resigning during a 70-minute meeting with Jiang, starting at 3:30pm, sources said.
After returning from his meeting with Ma, Jiang scheduled a second meeting with Tseng that began at 7:25pm and lasted for 45 minutes.
At the press conference, Tseng reiterated his statement that the allegations against him were "groundless."
Shame on those who fabricated the allegations against him, he said, adding that he decided to resign for the sake of the ministry and that "because I didn’t want to cause [my] superiors trouble."Ma and Jiang both said Tseng’s resignation was approved.
Earlier yesterday, Ma expressed distress over Tseng’s and High Court Prosecutors’ Office Head Prosecutor Chen Shou-huang’s (陳守煌) alleged involvement in illegal lobbying and said the government would not tolerate political manipulation of judicial cases.
“President Ma is shocked and saddened by the incident. The president believes that justice is the foundation of trust for the government and the last line of defense for social justice. There’s no room for political interference in any judicial case,” Presidential Office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said.
The Presidential Office did not mention Wang and declined to comment on speculation that Ma was using the incident to weaken Wang’s political influence and the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) old power bloc.
Lee said Ma has instructed related agencies to spare no efforts to investigate the case and clarify the situation.
The KMT yesterday also maintained a low-key attitude in response to the case and said it would wait for the results of the investigation when asked whether the party would address the alleged involvement of Wang, a KMT member, in illegal lobbying.
Some KMT members expressed concern about the impact of Wang’s lobbying on the party’s reputation and said the KMT should handle the case carefully.
The KMT revoked the party memberships of former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) and Taipei City Councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如) earlier this year over their alleged involvement in bribery cases. The KMT did not say whether it would use party regulations against Wang.
Wang does not have a position within the KMT, but as legislative speaker and a key figure in the party’s localization factions, he has had great influence over the party.
Wang also represents the KMT’s old power bloc, along with party heavyweights including former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), and has had problematic relations with Ma in the wake of fierce competition over the KMT chairmanship in 2005.
The alleged influence-peddling case was made public by the Special Investigation Division (SID) earlier yesterday in a text message informing the press about the news conference that said: “You do not want to miss it.”