Tue, Jul 10, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Ex-minister Kuo Yao-chi attends bribery hearing

`RIDICULOUS' Kuo asked prosecutors how they could indict her but drop charges against the people who allegedly bribed her, saying they had insufficient proof

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former minister of transportation and communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪) yesterday maintained that she was innocent during the first hearing on her trial for bribery at the Taipei District Court yesterday.

"I have worked hard and stayed clean from the very first day I served as a government official. I believe that the judges will prove my innocence," Kuo said before walking into the courtroom yesterday morning.

Kuo was indicted by Taipei prosecutors on charges of corruption on March 30. Prosecutors are seeking an eight-year sentence for the former minister.

Kuo is accused of accepting a US$20,000 bribe, which was stuffed in a tea container on July 4 last year, from Lee Ching-po (李清波) and his son Lee Tsung-hsien (李宗賢) of the Nan Ren Hu Group (南仁湖集團), which owns stakes in resorts, aquariums and freeway rest areas around the country.

Prosecutors said the bribe was offered in hopes of winning the bid for the renovation of the Taipei Railway Station and the right to operate stores in the station.

However, charges against the Lees were dropped because prosecutors said they did not have sufficient evidence to prove their direct involvement in the bribery.

Also, the group never submitted a formal bid for the project.

The Lees could not be charged because they never benefited from the minister's actions, prosecutors said.

Kuo was charged, however, because she accepted the money, they said.

During yesterday's hearing, Kuo questioned the indictment, asking how the prosecution could charge her if it had not gathered sufficient evidence to prove that bribery took place.

Kuo told judges that although the Lees said that the money was stuffed in a tea container, she never saw it when she used the tea leaves in the container.

Kuo added that it was ridiculous for prosecutors to drop charges against the Lees after they "confessed to giving her money" -- which she insisted she never saw.

The Taipei District Court said the second hearing will take place on Aug. 2.

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