Chen Chih-mo (陳志謀), mayor of Taoyuan County’s Gueishan Township (龜山), and his wife, Chen Tsai Ming-feng (陳蔡明鳳), were on Monday charged with soliciting bribes to help quash local opposition to Hwa Ya Power Co (華亞汽電) over a pollution scandal involving the firm.
Prosecutors said that in 2011, Hwa Ya was under investigation for allegedly falsifying its air pollution emission figures for April of that year.
A member of the Formosa Plastics Group, Hwa Ya operates cogeneration power plants and has had a running dispute with local residents over pollution issues.
Prosecutors said that Hwa Ya plant manager Feng Jung-ming (馮榮明) met Chen to offer the mayor a deal on behalf of the power company: Hwa Ya would donate NT$10 million (US$330,000) to the “township’s public construction fund” and NT$1 million for “maintenance work” on a major road in Gueishan.
In return for the donation, Feng wanted Chen’s help in placating local residents so that they would not rally against the company, or if they did, to help soothe public anger, they said.
Chen, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party, allegedly made a counteroffer in which he asked Hwa Ya to donate NT$13 million to the construction fund and make a one-time payment of NT$1 million to the township council, the association of village wardens and township representatives.
During the negotiations, Chen reportedly told Feng: “If you don’t agree to the public donation and local residents want to express their opinions, I won’t be able to speak on your behalf. I do not know what will happen after that.”
Prosecutors said that Hwa Ya reluctantly agreed to the mayor’s terms and dispatched Feng to deliver NT$2 million in cash to Chen’s residence on Sept. 14, 2011.
The money was received by Chen’s wife, who said it would be used to entice local politicians to wield their influence in the air pollution case, they said.
The case is not the first time Chen has been accused of graft. In another incident, he allegedly received NT$150,000 from a construction company in February 2012 to facilitate the undertaking of a public construction project.