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Thu, Nov 29, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Vote-buying police target banks

FOLLOW THE MONEY Finance ministry officials who will be deployed in banks will notify prosecutors of any significant changes in the institutions' deposits or loans

AFP , TAIPEI

Vice Finance Minister Sean Chen (陳沖) said yesterday that bank capital flows would be coming under close scrutiny as part of the government's efforts to eliminate further vote-buying in Saturday's legislative polls.

Chen issued a warning against any financial institutions emerging as the source of money laundering or illegal capital operations, following reports that corrupt electoral practices were already marring the electoral process.

"The finance ministry will cooperate with law-enforcement units in their efforts to curb illegal vote-buying," he said.

The remarks came after a local Chinese-language paper reported that at least 100 officials from financial supervisory agencies have been assigned to check the capital flows of grass-roots banking institutions for any signs of vote-buying.

An unnamed finance ministry official said that officials will notify prosecutors of any extraordinary changes in the institutions' deposits or loans.

"The purpose of the move is to help law-enforcement units crack down on vote-buying," the financial ministry official said.

"The financial check will last until the vote on Saturday," he added.

Incidents of vote-buying have been rife during the last week, particularly in the final days before the vote, the paper said.

The paper said the monitoring efforts could influence the poll results since many of the financial institutions under scrutiny used to be cells of the former KMT government.

A prosecutor from the southern Kaohsiung district court on Tuesday indicted independent candidate Wang Tien-ching (王天競) and KMT candidate Hsiao Chin-lan (蕭金蘭) on charges of vote-buying.

The prosecutor sought a jail term of three-and-half years for Wang and 10 months for Hsiao.

Last week DPP lawmaker Hsu Chih-ming (徐志明), who was seeking re-election, was also indicted on vote-buying allegations.

The ruling DPP has pledged to oversee a clean race in the first legislative elections since it took the helm of the country last year, ending the KMT's half-century grip on power.

Election analysts said none of the nation's political parties are expected to capture a majority in the legislature.

A record 476 candidates are vying for 168 of 225 seats, while 41 seats will be allocated to nominees from different political parties based on their share of the vote.

The remaining 16 seats are for representatives of minority tribes and overseas Taiwanese.

Some local elections will also be held in conjunction with the polls, with five cities electing mayors and 18 counties choosing magistrates.

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