Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday refused to accept what he called the “absurd grounds” for his indictment over his handling of the sale of former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) assets, as the party defended Ma and said the indictment reeked of political intervention.
“A lot of people are concerned about my reactions [to the indictment]. I want to tell everyone that I am calm, because that was something we had long anticipated, but I just did not expect it to come on a typhoon day,” Ma said.
He said the indictment was based on various preposterous arguments, namely the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office’s categorization of the assets he disposed of while serving as KMT chairman as “national assets-to-be.”
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
That categorization was the result of applying the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations (政黨及其附隨組織不當取得財產處理條例) — which was not promulgated until August 2016 — to sales that occurred 13 years ago, he added.
Ma made the remarks on Facebook yesterday afternoon, hours after the office indicted him for breach of trust and contraventions of the Securities and Exchange Act (證券交易法) for his role in the KMT’s disposal of Central Motion Picture Corp (中影), China Television Co (CTV, 中視) and Broadcasting Corp of China (BCC, 中廣).
The charges were also related to the KMT’s sale during the same period of Hua Hsia Investment Holding Co (華夏投資) and the former KMT headquarters building, which was on a plot of land facing the Presidential Office Building in Taipei that currently houses the Chang Yung-fa Foundation.
One of the reasons cited by prosecutors for Ma’s indictment was his decision to dispose of allegedly illegitimately obtained KMT assets through irregular transactions, purportedly to prevent them from being returned to the government.
Ma’s office spokeswoman Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) said in a statement that the indictment was clearly an attempt by President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration to shift focus amid growing public discontent over its poor governance.
KMT Culture and Communications Committee deputy director-general Hung Meng-kai (洪孟楷) defended Ma, saying that the sales had already been cleared of irregularities by a 10-year investigation by the now-defunct Special Investigation Division that went through five prosecutors and three prosecutors-general.
“That the case was reopened after the Tsai administration took office reeks of political intervention,” Hung said.
Such improper handling of the case has not only undermined the public’s trust in the impartiality of the judicial system, but has also demonstrated an apparent attempt to incriminate Ma, he said.
The three companies belonged to the KMT and Ma had the right to dispose of the party’s assets, KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said.
The case has been politically motivated and aims to weaken the KMT ahead of the year-end elections, as Ma has a crucial role in stumping for KMT candidates, he said.
That prosecutors cited Ma asking KMT staff during a KMT Central Standing Committee meeting to compile a report on the transactions and saying that he wanted to “win reputation and gain allies” by approving the sales as reasons for the indictment illustrate the absurdity of the case, KMT lawmakers said, accusing prosecutors of being the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) hit men.
Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇), citing an audio recording that was leaked in December last year, said that Ma was not only involved in the transactions, but he also knew that they were potentially illegal.
In the recording, Ma purportedly tells participants of a meeting of then-KMT-controlled Central Investment Co to “give him the kickback” when discussing the sale of CTV.
The TV company was acquired by former China Times Group chairman Albert Yu (余建新), who allegedly made NT$480 million (US$15.8 million at the current exchange rate) from the deal.
The KMT should look at the facts and refrain from “cheap mudslinging,” which would be useless when the case goes to court, Wang said.
It was of little wonder that Ma was charged with a breach of trust, which is the underselling of assets of a listed firm that results in losses for shareholders, said DPP Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄), who is a lawyer.
While the indictment rightly pointed out that the three firms were “national assets-to-be,” the KMT should not put Ma’s actions and the act in the same context, he said.
The judicial system operates independent of politics, Chuang said, calling the KMT’s linking of the indictment to the elections “mysterious logic” that “overestimates Ma’s campaigning ability.”
New Power Party caucus whip Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) echoed Chuang, saying that it is a fact that Ma undersold the three firms, which resulted in losses for Central Investment Co shareholders.
However, he called on the DPP administration to not “gloat” over the case and turn it into a feud between the pan-green and pan-blue camps, saying that the court could broadcast the legal proceedings online to give the public a better understanding of the process.
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