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Thu, Apr 19, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Court detains mayor of Tainan over land scam

INCOMMUNICADO The court approved the prosecution's request to detain George Chang, agreeing that he might destroy significant evidence if allowed to post bail

By Jou Ying-cheng  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chang Ting-lan, center, wife of Tainan mayor George Chang, called the decision to detain her husband ``judicial violence.''

PHOTO: WU HSING-HUA, TAIPEI TIMES

The Tainan District Court approved yesterday prosecutors' request to hold incommunicado George Chang (張燦鍙), mayor of Tainan, for allegedly defrauding the city government in a land requisition scam.

The detention of both a city mayor and city council speaker for the same case is a first in Taiwan politics.

Prosecutors allege that Chang, a 65-year-old member of the DPP, improperly ordered the requisition of land owned by Speaker Huang Yu-wen (黃郁文) and illegally allowed him to receive government compensation in return.

Huang has been detained since March 21.

The court cited four reasons for Chang's detention. "First, the land requisition was not reasonable, fair or necessary," a judge and court spokesman said in a press conference yesterday.

"Second, witnesses, namely other suspects, have said that Mayor Chang played the lead role in the land requisition and took part in the formation of an agreement allowing the purchases."

Also, the court had been shown written instructions from Chang in the case. In addition, the court said, Chang had failed to provide his written instructions concerning the land purchases to prosecutors until yesterday's questioning.

Two previous searches by prosecutors failed to find the documents. The court found credible the prosecution's contention that Chang might "destroy other documents not yet seized [by the prosecution]."

Chang's lawyer, Lee Sheng-hsiung (李勝雄), refuted the prosecution's claims and the court's decision, saying the ruling was "absolutely unreasonable."

"It's the prosecution's business to find the evidence. They shouldn't say you may destroy evidence just because they couldn't find the evidence," he said.

"Otherwise, every suspect could be detained," Lee added, saying he would appeal the ruling.

The Tainan City government held a press conference yesterday, in which a secretary for the mayor said that Chang, in his capacity as mayor, only handled the broad outlines of the land purchases and left the details to underlings.

The secretary said if there is any problem related to the requisition, the responsibility should fall on the departments in charge of the matter, rather than on the mayor.

Since last month, five people have been detained in connection with the land requisition scam allegations, including Huang, his wife Chang Su-chen (張素貞) and three city government officials.

Several city councilors are also suspected of having cooperated with Huang in the passing of the land requisition budgets.

The prosecution alleges that Huang has made around NT$160 million in illegal profits, while Chang, the former chairman of the World United Formosans for Independence (台獨聯盟), was not found to have pocketed any.

In the city government's press conference yesterday, Chang's wife Chang Ting-lan (張丁蘭) said she and Chang's supporters might petition the Control Yuan to address what she called "judicial violence."

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