Sat, Mar 18, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Official and businessman indicted over ETC scandal

By Rich Chang and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Taipei prosecutors yesterday indicted an official of the Ministry of Transportation and Com-munications (MOTC) and a businessman for allegedly offering and taking bribes in the scandal involving the ministry's electronic toll collection (ETC) system.

"The secretary to former MOTC minister Lin Ling-san (林陵三), Soong Nai-wu (宋乃午), is suspected of accepting more than NT$700,000 (US$21,590) in bribes and of leaking the ministry's secret documents to the contractor, Far Eastern [Electronic Toll Collection Co], before the ETC bidding took place," said Taipei Prosecutors' Office spokesman Lin Pang-liang (林邦樑) yesterday.

Lin said that as Soong's conduct has seriously affected the bidding and construction of the nation's highway ETC system, prosecutors have asked the Taipei District Court for a sentence of 12 years for Soong.

Soong currently serves as the secretary-general of the MOTC's Directorate General of Highways.

Lin added that the controversy surrounding the ETC system is a result of Soong's conspiracy with the ETC contractors.

Former Chingyeh Co assistant manager Tsai Chin-hung (蔡錦鴻) was also indicted on suspicion of offering bribes to ministry officials. Lin said that prosecutors have asked the Taipei District Court for a prison term of four years and a fine of NT$2 million for Tsai.

Lin added that Soong is suspected of leaking the names of committee members in charge of the ETC bidding system.

Prosecutors are still investigating whether committee members might also be involved in the bid-rigging scandal.

According to Lin, Tsai allegedly offered more than NT$16 million to help the contractor, Far Eastern, win the bid. Prosecutors are still investigating whether Lin Ling-san, other ministry officials and any lawmakers had accepted bribes were otherwise involved in the ETC scandal.

Chinese-language newspaper reports said that at least two legislators took more than NT$10 million in bribes from contractors for their "help" in winning the bid. Lin did not comment on the reports.

Last month Soong appeared at the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office, carrying a knife with him and swearing that he would commit suicide if he were convicted of corruption.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Soong insisted on his innocence.

Meanwhile, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday said that the ETC system must be implemented regardless of what has happened. Motorists' legal rights must be protected and any alleged scandals or bribes must be investigated, he said.

"These are the three principles that we will adhere to," Su said in remarks on the legislative floor yesterday in response to questions from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌).

Minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪) told lawmakers yesterday that the ETC system can be temporarily suspended if any ministry official is convicted of bribery.

"If that is the case, we will need time to review and reconsider the contract," she said.

Su said he has no intention of relieving Kuo from her post and asked the public to support and encourage her.

"She has been through a lot of trouble ever since she took over the office [as MOTC minister]. However, she is not the cause of all these troubles and should not therefore have to shoulder the blame," Su said.

"We should support and encourage her to keep her moving forward," he said.

This story has been viewed 3059 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top