Tue, Sep 14, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Corrupt politicians, tycoons choose exile over jail time

LIFE ON THE RUN Several prominent pan-blue supporters have more in common than just their political allegiance -- they're trying to escape the justice system

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former Yunlin County commissioner Chang Jung-wei and his wife are shown in this file photo:

PHOTO: THE TAIPEI TIMES

Former People First Party (PFP) lawmaker Liu Sung-fan (劉松藩) has been convicted of corruption and sentenced to four years in jail -- but the likelihood of his serving time soon appears remote.

Liu is currently in New York and there is no indication he is planning to returning home.

The former lawmaker, who was Speaker of the Legislative Yuan for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) from 1992 to 1999, is not alone in his voluntary exile -- many politicians and businesspeople facing legal problems have fled the country rather than appear in court or serve time.

Law enforcement personnel are also looking for former independent legislator Wu Tzer-yuan (伍澤元), former KMT lawmaker Ho Chih-hui (何智輝), former Yunlin County commissioner Chang Jung-wei (張榮味) and tycoon Tseng Cheng-jen (曾正仁). Coincidentally, all of them are -- or were -- pan-blue stalwarts.

The Ministry of Justice, the Bureau of Investigation and the National Police Agency said that their personnel will carry out their orders to locate and arrest these people -- regardless of politics.

Taipei District Prosecutors' Office Spokesman Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達) said that the law mandates that a convicted person is supposed to report to the local prosecutors' office on time to begin his or her jail term or that person will be declared a fugitive. A person can also be declared a fugitive if he or she fails to appear after three summonses and law enforcement officers cannot locate him or her despite three attempts.

"For their families' and their own good, I would suggest these people face whatever responsibilities they have," Chen said.

Liu and Tseng

On Sept. 7, the Taiwan High Court's Taichung branch sentenced Liu to four years in jail for corruption, declaring a final verdict.

Prosecutors said Liu will be declared a fugitive if he fails to report to the prosecutors' office to begin his jail term. However, since Liu's family has yet received the official High Court verdict, the date Liu's jail term is set to begin is not yet known.

Liu was president of the Bank of Taichung -- later renamed the Taichung Business Bank -- from October 1992 to October 1998, when Tseng replaced him.

Taichung prosecutors alleged in 2001 that Tseng had abused his position as bank president in November 1998 to push through loans worth more than NT$9 billion. They said he also kept dummy accounts in six companies to facilitate his illegal transactions.

According to the Sept. 7 verdict, Liu served as a middleman for Tseng in these activities. The court found Liu conspired with the Chihching Co to conceal one of Tseng's dummy accounts. Chihching, which only had NT$2 million in capital, managed to secure a NT$1.5 billion loan from the Taichung Business Bank and Liu received NT$150 million in kickbacks.

On June 8, Tseng was sentenced to 11 years in jail in this case. But he disappeared with his wife on June 14 and is now thought to be living in Shanghai.

Wu Tzer-yuan

The Panchiao District Court convicted Wu on a raft of corruption and fraud charges in 1996 for his involvement, as a then-KMT member and director of the Taiwan Provincial Government's Planning and Development Department, in a kickback scandal over the 1992 Sipiantou (四汴頭) water-pumping station project for Taipei County. Wu was allowed to remain free pending appeal.

In 1997, however, the Taiwan High Court upheld a prosecutor's request that Wu be detained.

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