Thu, Oct 13, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Ex-MRT official released

LABOR SCANDAL Prosecutors have released former Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp official Chen Min-hsien on bail, but said he is banned from leaving the country


The former vice chairman of the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp (KRTC), Chen Min-hsien (陳敏賢), was released yesterday morning on NT$1.5 million (US$45,400) bail, after being charged on suspicion of laundering money from alleged kickbacks or bribes when hiring Thai laborers to work on the Kaohsiung MRT system.

"Chen and his company, the Southeast Cement Corp, established four foundations which we suspect were created to launder money," Chung Chung-hsiao (鍾忠孝), a spokesman for the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office, said yesterday.

"In 2003 and 2004, there was at least NT$40 million in suspect money that entered the accounts of those foundations. Some of the money then flowed into Chen's personal accounts, and some went to other people's accounts," Chung added.

Chung said "prosecutors are investigating where the money came from, and where the money went."

"Two-thousand-and-three and 2004 were the years in which the KRTC recruited most of the Thai laborers to work on the Kaohsiung MRT system, and also invited a number of public bids to build the MRT's infrastructure, so prosecutors suspect the foundation's money was in the form of kickbacks or bribes related to the KRTC scandal," Chung said.

Chung said Chen has been charged with occupational embezzlement and breach of trust. Chen has also been restricted from leaving the country, Chung added.

Prosecutors said that according to documents from the foundations, Chou Li-liang (周禮良) -- a Ministry of Transportation and Communications vice minister and former director-general of the Kaohsiung's Department of Rapid Transit Systems -- was suspected of receiving NT$600,000 from the foundations.

Chou yesterday told reporters that the NT$600,000 was a research fee related to the MRT project, not a bribe.

Prosecutors on Tuesday raided the headquarters of Southeast Cement Co in Kaohsiung City, as well as the offices of Chen's foundations, seizing a large number of documents.

Chen, who was summoned for questioning by prosecutors, was released on bail yesterday.

"I have no problem. My foundations have problems," Chen said as he left the prosecutors' office.

Chung yesterday refused to comment on whether evidence had indicated that former presidential adviser Chen Che-nan (陳哲男) had a role in the scandal.

Shortly after meeting state public prosecutor-general Wu Ying-chao (吳英昭), President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) last week approved the resignations of Chen Che-nan, a national policy adviser to the president, and Chen Min-hsien.

The president's approval was seen as a signal that Chen Che-nan and Chen Min-hsien were at the center of a scandal over the Kaohsiung MRT project in the wake of a riot by Thai laborers in late August.

Chung said a lead prosecutor is leaving for Thailand to visit three Thai companies which were in charge of brokering Thai laborers to work for the KRTC.

The companies were suspected of having paid brokerage fees to Taiwanese officials, Chung added.

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