Taipei councilors demand answers on Ma's fortune

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 3

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should explain how he managed to become so wealthy in such a short period of time, Taipei city councilors belonging to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.

Facing the DPP city councilors' charges yesterday, Ma appeared composed, saying that he had nothing to hide and welcomed people with questions to investigate his assets.

DPP city councilors Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) and Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) joined DPP spokesman Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) at a news conference at DPP headquarters yesterday to follow up on questions they had raised last Saturday about Ma's abrupt increase in assets.

They had alleged that Ma made a small fortune from government subsidies given for each vote he gained during the last two Taipei mayoral elections, in 1998 and 2002.

Hsu said that the value of properties registered by Ma and his wife, Chow Mei-ching (周美青), had increased by about NT$17.13 million (US$545,700) from 1996 to March 1999, indicating they had earned NT$6.63 million per year on average.

Hsu questioned how Ma, who claimed that he had donated some NT$47 million in government subsidies from the two mayoral elections to the New Taiwanese Cultural Foundation (新台灣人基金會) and the Dwen An Social Welfare Foundation (敦安社會基金會), could still have earned so much money in three years.

"The most ridiculous aspect this situation is that Ma donated the government subsidies to foundations that mainly focus on campaigning for Ma," Hsu said.

Tsai urged Ma to make it clear whether he made money by taking part in the mayoral elections, and to explain how the increase in his wealth had come about.

Ma responded to the accusations by saying that those who are interested in his property were welcome to investigate.

He added that he was well-prepared for such allegations against him.

"The regulation asking public servants to report their property was introduced when I served as justice minister," Ma said.

"It does not mean that wealthy public servants earned their money through corruption. Likewise, it does not mean that those with smaller fortunes are free of corruption," Ma said.

"Anyway, I report my assets in the most transparent way I can. I'm not afraid of people looking into it," he added.