Court clears Chen Che-nan of KRTC corruption


Sat, Aug 25, 2007 - Page 1

Kaohsiung District Court yesterday cleared former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan (陳哲男) of corruption relating to the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp (KRTC) scandal.

"Prosecutors had no way to prove that the hospitality Chen Che-nan received was related to his position. As a result, we decided to drop all the charges against him," said presiding Judge Tseng Yi-cheng (曾逸成), when reading the verdict in court yesterday.

Prosecutors alleged that Chen helped Huapan Co, the firm in charge of hiring and managing Thai laborers working on Kaohsiung's MRT construction project, in return for vacations.

Kaohsiung prosecutors accused Chen of accepting all-expense paid trips to Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea, as well as "entertainment" paid for by the firm in return for his help in winning contracts for the MRT project.

The case came to light after Thai workers rioted on Aug. 21, 2005 in protest over working conditions.

On Nov. 21, 2005, Kaohsiung Prosecutor Ho Chin-tung (何錦東) indicted Chen on corruption charges along with 22 other defendants, including officials, a brokerage company staffer and four Thai workers who were the ringleaders in the riot.

Huapan general manager Yen Shih-hua (嚴世華) and his wife Wang Tsai-pi (王彩碧) were sentenced to 42 months and four years in jail respectively for receiving kickbacks from Thai workers and several Thai labor brokerages.

After the verdict, Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office Spokesman Chung Chung-hsiao (鍾忠孝) said that he was not surprised by the outcome.

"Actually, before we even submitted the case to the court, I had a strong feeling that our evidence might not be sufficient to persuade the judges," Chung said.

Prosecutors would meet to discuss whether to appeal after they had read the verdict, he said.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍) told a press conference that she was stunned by the verdict.

She said Chen was also allegedly involved in other cases, and urged prosecutors to conduct thorough investigations into them.

KMT Legislator Joanna Lei (雷倩), who was also at the conference, said the ruling was surprising because prosecutors had submitted "clear evidence" against Chen.

Lei said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh's campaign team should avoiding gloating because the verdict did not necessarily clear Hsieh of his alleged involvement in cases related to the KRTC scandal.

When asked for comment, DPP caucus deputy secretary-general Wang Shu-hui (王淑慧) said the verdict had cleared Chen's name.

Wang said the evidence against Chen was "weak," adding that prosecutors had only sought a severe punishment because Chen was former deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office.

Additional reporting Flora Wang