Tue, Jan 10, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Academic charged with corruption

OBI PHARMA:The former president of Academia Sinica angrily denied the charges, saying it had ‘grievously’ harmed his reputation and vowing to defend his innocence

By Huang Chieh and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Former Academia Sinica president Wong Chi-huey gives a speech at a handover ceremony to his successor on June 21 last year. Wong was indicted yesterday for corruption in a case involving OBI Pharma Inc.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

The Shilin District Court yesterday indicted former Academia Sinica president Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠) on corruption charges relating to biotech company OBI Pharma Inc (台灣浩鼎).

Wong denied the charges, accusing the court of abusing its authority.

Wong was appointed president of Academia Sinica in October 2007 and began work on developing cancer vaccine technologies in 2008, the indictment read.

He also started collaborating with OBI Pharma chairman Michael Chang (張念慈) — a friend from the time he was studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — on public research, it said.

In October 2011, Chang offered Wong 1,500 new shares of OBI Pharma in a quid pro quo exchange for technologies developed by Wong, which Wong accepted, prosecutors said.

However, the two later abandoned the scheme in favor of an agreement to exchange the technology for a future payment, after the Ministry of Economic Affairs expressed misgivings about the new shares, prosecutors said.

In August 2012, Academia Sinica posted a public notice for a corporate partner to transfer its patented “next-generation synthetic oligosaccharides technology,” which was obtained by Amaran Biotechnology Inc (潤雅生技), a company that shared an office with OBI Pharma.

Prosecutors said that the technology transfer was made under Wong and Chang’s direction, following the completion of the transfer of 3,000 shares of OBI Pharma on Dec. 17 to Wong’s daughter Wong Yu-shioh (翁郁秀).

Although Wong Yu-shioh was the nominal owner of the 3,000 shares, estimated to be worth NT$93 million (US$2.9 million at current exchange rates), prosecutors said they believed Wong Chi-huey has de facto control of the shares.

As to other issues, prosecutors said that no indictment was issued on Wong Chi-huey’s acceptance of a US$300,000 contribution from US-based Optimer Pharmaceuticals Inc, because he was able to provide documentation proving that the sum was used for a legitimate cooperative project.

No indictment was also issued for Chang Sui-fen (張穗芬), the finance division manager of OBI Pharma who facilitated the stock transfer, because there was insufficient evidence that she knowingly participated in the act of bribery, prosecutors said.

Wong Chi-huey issued a press statement last night saying he was “shocked and angered” by the indictment, calling it “a far-fetched accusation and an abuse of prosecutorial authority.”

He denied having discussed stock options with Chang in a quid pro quo arrangement, and insisted that the 3,000 OBI Pharma shares he received were entirely self-funded and had no connection to his position then as president of Academia Sinica.

“This humiliation has done grievous injury to my academic reputation... I will strenuously defend my innocence through the legal process,” he said.

Meanwhile, OBI Pharma said that its operations and research would not be affected by the case, adding that it respected the court’s decision and would continue to stand by its management team.

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