The Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld a guilty verdict handed to former Nantou County commissioner Lee Chao-ching (李朝卿) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), who was charged with corruption for siphoning funds from public projects, sentencing him to 22 years in prison and deprivation of civil rights for 10 years.
Chien Jui-chi (簡瑞祺), Lee’s brother-in-law who served as an intermediary, passing on messages and transferring illicit funds, was also found guilty, and given a 20-year term and deprived of his civil rights for nine years.
The ruling reduced the sentences handed to the two in 2015, with Lee having originally been sentenced to 30 years and Chien to 22 years.
Photo: Hsieh Chieh-yu, Taipei Times
Investigators found that Lee, as the highest official of the Nantou County Government, abused his authority by demanding 10 percent kickbacks from contractors of 111 public infrastructure projects starting in 2009, receiving a total of NT$31.71 million (US$1.05 million at the current exchange rate).
One such project — rebuilding several mountain villages’ roads and bridges washed away by Typhoon Morakot in 2009 — had a budget of NT$94.6 million, of which Lee received NT$9.49 million from the construction company that secured the public tender, prosecutors said.
The smallest project for which Lee earned a kickback was street sewer repair project in Puli Township (埔里) with a budget of NT$160,000, for which Lee received a kickback of NT$16,000, the prosecutors added.
The case was one of the largest corruption investigations involving the head of a local government in the past decade and achieved prominence in the media because of Lee’s preferred method of receiving funds from contractors — requiring them to put bundles of cash inside luxury tea containers and fruit gift boxes.
When authorities raided Lee’s office at the start of the investigation in November 2012, they found metal tea containers containing NT$30,000 each. Witnesses and evidence indicated that Lee would visit contractors to collect his 10 percent cuts, picking up the boxes to pass them off as gifts.
Lee, 67, was first elected Nantou County commissioner in 2005 and was re-elected to a second term in 2009.
Lee began his kickback scheme and other corrupt activities during his first term, with his “appetite” growing bigger in his second term, prosecutors said.
He was detained and suspended from his post when the investigation began in 2012 and, after evidence of his corruption mounted, Control Yuan members voted 11-1 to impeach him in September 2013.
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