Kaohsiung speaker Hsu accused of vote-buying

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, Feb 27, 2006 - Page 3

Kaohsiung prosecutors on Saturday night raided an illegal gambling house which is suspected of being used to generate funding for a candidate running in the Kaohsiung County Council speakership election.

"We received a tip-off that Kaohsiung County Council Speaker Hsu Fu-sen (許福森), who is seeking re-election, was involved in vote-buying and we investigated the matter," Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office Spokesman Chung Chung-hsiao (鍾忠孝) said yesterday.

Hsu, a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and suspected of having close ties with gangsters, has been the council's speaker for eight years.

Chung said the accusations levelled against Hsu were that he had offered councilors bribes ranging between NT$500,000 (US$15,150) to NT$1 million in exchange for their votes.

Hsu had allegedly agreed to offer the councilors more money if he was re-elected, Chung said.

Prosecutors summoned seven councilors for questioning on Saturday night, but they all denied receiving money from Hsu.

"The councilors were released, but prosecutors will gather more evidence, including analyzing account books seized from the gambling house," Chung said.

Chung said prosecutors do not yet know whether the gambling house was actually run by Hsu.

Hsu already has a case pending against him in the Kaohsiung District Court. In the case, Hsu was charged with taking bribes and helping unlicensed industrial waste handlers to secure waste disposal contracts. He was also charged with running a firm that dumped industrial waste illegally.

Prosecutors nationwide have been doing their utmost to prevent instances of vote-buying occurring ahead of the elections of city and county council speakers and deputy speakers on Wednesday.

According to last year's amendments to the Criminal Code, vote-buying in speakership and deputy speakership elections are punishable by three to 10 years in prison, as well as a maximum fine of NT$20 million.

One of the nation's most notorious vote-buying scandals occurred during the 2004 Kaohsiung City Council speakership election. Former Kaohsiung City Council speaker Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄) and a large number of council members were found guilty of vote-buying, voiding the election result.