President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) eldest sister yesterday denied playing a role in the Taipei Twin Towers bribery scandal and threatened to take measures to protect her reputation.
Ma Yi-nan (馬以南), who has sparked controversies in the past for her role in her brother’s election campaigns and involvement in government businesses, dismissed allegations in the latest edition of the Chinese-language Next Magazine that she used her influence to ask Da Cin Construction Co (達欣工程) to lend its offices to Taipei Gateway International Development Co (太極雙星) to create the impression that the project developer was financially solid.
The magazine said Ma Yi-nan was close friends with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如), and that at Lai’s request, she asked Da Cin vice chairman Wang Jen-chih (王人治) to make the company’s offices available as meeting rooms for the developer to discuss the project with Taipei City’s Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) last year.
The consortium, led by Taipei Gateway International Development, won the tender in October last year with a NT$70 billion (US$2.34 billion) bid, but lost the rights to the project in February when it failed to furnish a NT$1.89 billion performance bond by deadline.
According to an initial police investigation, Lai had been contacted by former DORTS official Jia Er-ching (賈二慶) through a middleman, Peng Chien-ming (彭建銘), to ask Lai to help contractor Cheng Hung-dao (程宏道) win the project, allegedly promising Lai NT$10 million in return.
Investigators said Peng delivered the first installment of NT$1 million to Lai’s law firm and that Peng handed the money to Lai in person.
Since the bid made by Taipei Gateway International Development failed because of a lack of funding, Lai was not given the rest of the money promised by Cheng.
Lai is in detention over her alleged role in the scandal.
Ma Yi-nan yesterday dismissed the allegations in the magazine.
In a written statement, she denied asking Da Cin to lend its offices to the developer, and expressed regret over what she said was an unverified story filled with speculation.
“I’ve never heard of Taipei Gateway International Development before news about the bribery scandal broke recently, and it is impossible for me to lend Da Cin Construction’s office space to the developer,” she said.
She acknowledged knowing Wang, but said they had only worked together on charity events, including programs to help Aboriginal students and children from low-income families.
She accused the magazine of damaging her reputation with groundless allegations, adding that she was considering taking legal action.
Meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) declined to comment on speculation that prosecutors plan to summon him for questioning over his role in the Taipei Twin Towers project. He reiterated that the city government would respect the investigation process and expected prosecutors to complete its probe as soon as possible.
Separately, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said that the KMT owns part of the land where the Taipei Twin Towers is to be built, and said it stood to make a huge profit from the project.
“Lai proposed a bill in the Taipei City Council to allow private owners of land allocated for the Taipei Twins Towers to take part in the development project. The biggest landowner at the site is the KMT, which owns 1,669.3785m2 of the land, and the party could make a profit of about NT$6 billion from the project,” DPP spokesman Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said.
“The KMT would be the biggest profit-maker in the project,” Lin said.
Lai was likely the person representing the party in dealing with the project, Lin said, adding that he suspected the president knew everything.
Additional reporting by Rich Chang