Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如) was yesterday indicted on corruption charges for allegedly receiving a bribe of NT$1 million (US$33,400) in the Taipei Twin Towers project.
The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday told a press conference that it had wrapped up its investigation, which began in 2010, and that Lai had been indicted on three charges: demanding and taking bribes by an act that is part of her duties, an inconsistent increase in income without reasonable excuse and concealment of bribery income.
Lai, who served as the convener of the Taipei City Council’s Transportation Committee, was accused of abusing her position and favoring a consortium led by Taipei Gateway International Development Co, which won the tender for the Twin Towers project in October last year with a NT$70 billion bid.
Prosecutors allege that Lai struck a deal with the consortium for a NT$10 million bribe to be delivered in three installments — NT$1 million as a down payment, NT$3 million after the company signed a contract with the Taipei City Government and NT$6 million once construction started.
Lai, who was first detained on March 30, has admitted to accepting a NT$1 million payment, but said it was a “political donation.”
Prosecutors have recommended that the court give Lai the maximum penalty because she has denied any wrongdoing and refused to disclose the origin of her increased income.
Lai, a lawyer, had served as director of the KMT chairman’s office for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and spokeswoman for Ma’s campaign office during last year’s presidential election.
The KMT’s Evaluation and Discipline Committee revoked her party rights in April after she was detained by the Taipei District Court.
Former Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems official Jia Er-ching (賈二慶), contractor Cheng Hung-dao (程宏道) and alleged middleman Peng Chien-ming (彭建銘) were also indicted. Jia and Peng have reportedly admitted to bribing Lai.
Lai’s lawyer, Hung Wen-chun (洪文浚), declined to comment on the indictment, saying he had not received the statement of charges.
The Taipei District Court is expected to decide today if Lai will be released on bail today or at a later date.
Lai is the second close KMT aide of Ma’s to be charged with the crime of an inconsistent increase in income. Former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) was the first.
KMT spokesman Yin Wei (殷瑋) said Ma respected the prosecutors’ actions.
Meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) defended the city government’s handling of the scandal-ridden Twin Towers project, saying that no city official or civil servant has been indicted in connection with the project.
The city has held talks about the project with BES Engineering Corp, the second-placed bidder, after its deal with a multinational consortium led by Taipei Gateway International Development collapsed.
Hau said the negotiations are still under way. He declined to comment when asked if the project would be nullified if problems were found with the bidding process.
Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih