Politicians and academics offered mixed views on the controversial prosecution of university professors accused of using false receipts to claim research funds, although most of them said they should have been charged with fraud rather than corruption.
The controversy has snowballed after dozens of professors, associate professors and research staff from universities across the country were indicted on corruption charges for allegedly using false receipts to claim research funds as hundreds of similar cases are being investigated.
Speaking at the legislature yesterday, Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) said the ministry would not interfere with individual cases, but that Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) had laid down the principle for dealing with such cases.
Huang has said that the professors were charged with corruption because they were considered “responsible civil servants” who were given the responsibility to oversee procurement and inspection, Tseng said.
Huang has also said that if the funds were not used to purchase items for personal use, the act would constitute fraud rather than corruption, Tseng added.
Some have argued that professors working for public universities should be charged with corruption and those employed in private universities should be charged with fraud, while others have said that all the professors should be charged with corruption, Tseng said.
Led by Shih Hsin University professor Kan Tien-kuei (甘添貴), a group of academics who specialize in criminal law issued a joint statement yesterday arguing against Huang’s interpretation and said that the professors should not be considered “responsible civil servants” regardless of which university they work for.
Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said in a press release that charging professors who were not familiar with the law with corruption would “undermine freedom in the academic and research world.”
The real issue should be the rigid reimbursement and audit system for research funds, Tsai said, adding that many politicians and government officials have been charged with corruption for similar practices in recent years and created political divisions.
Tsai urged the judiciary to deal with the cases cautiously and avoid abuse of power.
“If we are talking about the crimes of a few people, that would definitely be a legal discussion. If we are talking about hundreds of university professors who committed the same crime, that could be an issue of system, procedure or legislation,” former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said.