Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office (THPO) Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) yesterday backed a former deputy justice minister’s allegations on Tuesday that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had turned to the nation’s administrative and investigative branches to pursue a personal vendetta against him for indicting the president on corruption charges in 2007.
“It is shocking to know that a president would resort to administrative means to punish the judicial personnel in charge of a legal case involving himself,” Hou said in response to media queries about former deputy minister of justice Lee Chin-yung’s (李進勇) accusations on Tuesday that Ma had interfered with the judicial system.
Lee presented a copy of a newspaper clipping showing an op-ed article written by Ma’s attorney, C.V. Chen (陳長文), in January 2010, calling on the Ministry of the Justice to seek compensation from Hou for what he described as negligence in handling the fraud case.
On the clipping was a note left by Ma that read: “Minister [of Justice] Wang Ching-feng, please read [the article] and clarify the matter.”
Lee alleged that Ma had held a grudge against Hou for indicting him on charges of misappropriating NT$11 million (US$333,000 at current exchange rates) from his special mayoral allowance during his eight-year tenure as Taipei mayor, even after he was found not guilty in April 2008. Hou said Ma took him to court in January 2008 on charges of dereliction of duty and forgery of investigation reports related to his corruption case, but the case was dismissed.
“After I was cleared of criminal liability, the president refused to let go of the matter … and instead used Chen’s article as a pretext for trying to hold me administratively accountable for another case,” Hou said.
As Hou’s alleged malpractice in handling the fraud case had gone beyond the 10-year statute of limitations for public functionary’s administrative negligence, given that defendants in the case were first indicted and detained in 1997, Ma later turned to the Control Yuan for assistance, Hou said.
Contrary to Ma’s expectations, the Control Yuan in December 2010 issued a correction order not to Hou, but to the ministry, for failing to discipline Hou sooner, as suggested by a Control Yuan investigation report in May 2002.
Hou said that then-justice minister Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), apparently acting on Ma’s orders, sent an official letter to the THPO in February 2010 asking the agency to “ascertain Hou’s [administrative] liability in ‘fraudulently misrepresenting’ witnesses’ statements” in Ma’s corruption case.
“It’s evident that the ministry jumped to conclusions before the THPO even had a chance to look into the matter,” Hou added.
Hou said the THPO originally decided not to discipline him.
Nevertheless, the ministry’s personnel review committee decided to mete out a heavier punishment and gave Hou a demerit instead in October that year, he said.
Asked whether the concerted efforts by Ma, Chen and Wang to find fault with him constituted a witch-hunt, Hou said: “It’s up for interpretation.”