Wed, Mar 01, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Sung denies role in ETC scandal

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The new electronic toll collection system lane at a toll station in Kangshan Township, Kaohsiung County, is empty yesterday as controversy over the project grows.

PHOTO: CNA

As the nation awaits the Supreme Administrative Court's verdict on the suitability of Far Eastern Toll Collection Co in taking charge of the Highway Toll Collection (ETC) System, public interest in the potential scandal over Far Eastern's winning of the bid is also growing.

Sung Nai-wu (宋乃午), former chief secretary of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), said yesterday that he was willing to have a face-to-face talk with People First Party Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄), who last year accused Sung of assisting Far Eastern in securing the bid for Taiwan's largest "build, operate and transfer" (BOT) project.

Specifically, Liu charged that Sung gave counterfeit paintings to members of the review committee and asked Far Eastern to buy back those paintings for NT$1.2 billion (US$36.4 million).

Sung denied the accusation at a press conference yesterday at the Taipei Prosecutors' Office.

"I swear I will kill myself if I am found to be involved in the scandal," saididSung, showing a knife he had prepared before making the public statement.

Investigators summoned former minister Lin Ling-san (林陵三) and asked him to clarify details regarding the bidding process in an attempt to find out whether Lin knew anything about the alleged bribery.

According to a Taipei Prosec-utors' Office's spokesperson, evidence shows that the scandal is a complicated affair and may involve a number of high-ranking officials.

The scandal was accidentally discovered by prosecutors when they were investigating axle counter purchases by the Taiwan Railway Administration. Prosecutors have found telephone records showing that the same group of officials and contractors had attempted to use the same method to secure the ETC project.

Sung was found to be heavily involved in the decision-making process for the ETC system. He was also said to have convened closed-door meetings on the ETC system without obtaining permission from his supervisors.

Investigations on the ETC system began last year before the local elections. Political pressure has mounted since then, with legislators from both the pan-green and pan-blue camps accusing each other of engaging in illegal transactions.

Prosecutors are now trying to trace the flow of the funds by investigating several major bank accounts.

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