Wed, Mar 14, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Former officials questioned over bird flu outbreak

By Rich Chang  /  Staff Reporter

After being questioned by Taipei prosecutors yesterday over an alleged cover-up of an H5N2 avian flu outbreak, former Council of Agriculture minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) told the media that there had been no cover-up and stressed that everything had been conducted in line with administrative procedures.

Chen also said that he was the “big boss” referred to in a recording released by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of a meeting held on Feb. 1 to discuss the risks of an H5N2 bird flu outbreak in Fangyuan Township (芳苑), Changhua County, which was first reported on Dec. 27.

As part of an investigation into whether an alleged cover-up of an H5N2 avian flu outbreak took place, Taipei prosecutors yesterday also summoned former Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine director Hsu Tien-lai (許天來) for questioning.

Prosecutors said Chen was questioned as a witness.

Prosecutors are investigating a claim of malfeasance against Hsu over the alleged concealment of the outbreak in January and reporting the high-risk outbreak as a low-risk incident. Several other senior officials may also be investigated.

DPP legislators have said that a recording from the meeting includes Hsu saying that the notification of the outbreak should be postponed until “after the boss steps down” because “it is not urgent.”

Prosecutors said they had also obtained the minutes from the Feb. 1 meeting.

According to the DPP legislators, Hsu also said that “the big boss has not agreed with it,” and “if it eventually takes compensation, we would need approval from the Executive Yuan.”

They added that the “it” Hsu mentioned could be a plan to compensate farmers whose chickens have to be culled because of the flu outbreak.

Before Chen’s statement that the “big boss” was him, DPP lawmakers said that it also could have been former premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) or President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), and that the cover-up could have been an attempt to benefit Ma’s re-election campaign.

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