Sun, Feb 03, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Ma still mum on wife's stock transactions

WAR OF WORDS In response to growing accusations the Frank Hsieh camp has made against Ma, the KMT intends to substantially increase its number of spokespersons

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, center, beats a drum at a campaign rally in Yuanlin Township, Changhua County, yesterday.

PHOTO: JUAN YI-YU, TAIPEI TIMES

The integrity of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) continued to be called into question in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) camp yesterday.

DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) asked Ma yesterday to explain a sudden rise in the value of Mega Financial Holdings (兆豐金控) shares following transactions by his wife, Chow Mei-ching (周美青).

Ma's camp said that Chow sold 90,000 shares of Mega Financial Holdings between July 13, 2004, and Sept. 13, 2004, which were part of her allotted shares at the company. She then bought treasury stocks at the company, pushing her total shares to 113,680, and sold 60,000 between Sept. 8, 2005, and Sept. 27, 2005.

"There was room for arbitrage at the time Chow made the stock transactions. As an official heading the company's legal department, Chow could have had access to some information in advance. Ma needs to clear up the matter," Cheng said at a press conference.

"In June 2004, Mega Financial Holdings made public its intention to sell treasury stock to its employees for NT$17.04. At the time, its market price was NT$21. The next month, Mega Financial Holdings was granted permission by the Taiwan Futures Exchange to issue options," Cheng said.

Cheng requested that Ma respond in person, saying the matter concerned the "integrity" of a leader.

In a press release late on Thursday, the Ma camp released Chow's transaction records, contradicting comments Ma had made earlier that he and his family possessed stocks but had never sold them.

The reversal came after Frank Hsieh spokeswoman Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) held a press conference on Thursday afternoon where she showed Ma's property disclosure report, which contained Chow's share transaction records for 2004 and 2005.

"Had it not been for our press conference on Thursday, Ma would not have admitted that Chow had sold shares of Mega Financial Holdings. We want Ma to provide answers," Hsieh Hsin-ni said. "Don't waste everybody's time."

Meanwhile, following a report by SET-TV on Friday saying Ma had received NT$500,000 (US$16,000) in political donations from The National Association of Architects, Frank Hsieh spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) asked Ma to state whether he had made the association any promises in return.

Ma denies he has received political donations from businesses associations, but his eldest sister, Ma Yi-nan (馬以南), said political donations from biotechnology and pharmaceuticals associations had been made.

"If it isn't because of irregularities, Ma should tell the public why he lied about the political contributions he received from business associations," Hsu said.

Ma yesterday declined to comment on the questions surrounding his wife's stock trading record, insisting that the focus should remain on policies.

"We should pay more attention to national policies and issues regarding people's lives," Ma said yesterday after attending an event in Taipei. "What people want is a president who does his job and who presents good policies rather than someone who offers nothing but empty promises."

Ma spokesman Luo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said the Ma camp welcomed Frank Hsieh to ask prosecutors to look into Ma's political donation history and his wife's stock trading.

Luo, meanwhile, continued to call on Frank Hsieh to respond to the Ma camp's questions over his relationship with the Kaohsiung Development Association, a support group of Hsieh whose former president, Hsu Cheng-chao (徐政朝), is a close friend of the DPP presidential candidate.

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