Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如) was suspended by the party yesterday over her alleged role in a bribery case in connection with a municipal development project in Taipei.
The KMT Disciplinary Committee made the decision two days after Lai was detained by prosecutors.
Lai, a lawyer who also served as director of the office maintained by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in his capacity as KMT chairman, is suspected of having agreed to help a multinational consortium win the bid for the Taipei Twin Towers project in exchange for a kickback of NT$10 million (US$334,706).
A consortium led by Taipei Gateway International Development Co (太極雙星) won the tender in October last year with a NT$70 billion bid, but lost the rights to the project in February when it failed to put up a performance guarantee by the required deadline.
Lai has admitted to taking a NT$1 million payment, but said she considered it to be a “political donation.” She said she returned the money after realizing that it came from the consortium.
Lai’s lawyer, Hsueh Ming-hung (薛銘鴻), is filing an appeal against her detention, stating that neither he nor his client could make a proper defense if the source of information on which the detainment ruling was based was withheld from them.
Hsueh said that the plaintiff had produced a document during the appeal against his client’s bail, but had forbidden his client or himself from reading the document on the grounds of investigation confidentiality.
Hsueh said that it was a severe flaw in terms of court procedure for the plaintiff to produce such a document and let the judges make a ruling after reading it, adding that he intended to protest the ruling as it went against the principle of procedural justice.
Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office spokesperson Lee Chia-ming (李嘉明) said that the document provided in court for the judge’s perusal contained abstracts from the investigation files, adding that in adherence to the principle of investigation confidentiality, the document could not be made available to the defendant or her lawyer.
Meanwhile, Peng Chien-ming (彭建銘), the alleged middleman in the case, was called in by the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday for another round of questioning, specifically on the details of the transfer of bribe money.
Prosecutors say their investigation found that Lai had been contacted by former Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems official Jia Er-ching (賈二慶) through Peng to ask Lai to help contractor Cheng Hung-dao (程宏道) obtain the project, promising Lai NT$10 million in return.
The investigation reportedly found that Peng had delivered the first installment of NT$1 million to Lai’s law firm and Peng had handed the money to Lai personally.
Since the bid made by Taipei Gateway International Development failed due to a lack of funding, Lai was not given the rest of the money promised by Cheng.
Following the start of the investigation of the case last month, Lai, Cheng and Jia were detained after talks with prosecutors, but were later released on bail.
Prosecutors said that after they appealed the bail decision, the Taipei District Court ruled that Lai and Cheng should be held in detention and barred from visitors.
Due to Peng’s cooperation in a questioning session on Wednesday, prosecutors have regarded Peng as pleading guilty to the charges and allowed him to post bail of NT$300,000.
As Peng’s statements yesterday did not differ from his statements on Wednesday, and Lai’s denial that the NT$1 million was a bribe, prosecutors said they would be arranging a face-to-face meeting with Lai and Peng in an effort to gain more insight into the case.