President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控) should provide more information and explanations to clarify the controversy surrounding allegations that the president accepted political donations from the company, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.
Ma, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Fubon Financial only have to answer two questions, DPP spokesperson Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said — the exact amount of the donation and when the donation was made.
“Was it NT$15 million [US$500,000] or NT$10 million? Was it made in 2004 or 2008?” Chuang said.
One day after DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) questioned Ma about the donation during the presidential debate on Saturday, the DPP made public court testimony by Fubon Financial chairman Daniel Tsai (蔡明忠) from a hearing in August 2009 during the second-round of financial reforms case against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
An attorney for Chen asked Daniel Tsai whether he, his family, Fubon Financial or companies under the Fubon Group had ever made political donations to Ma during the 2008 presidential campaign.
“The Political Donations Act (政治獻金法) had already been passed. I remember we donated to the KMT and we received a receipt. The amount should be NT$15 million,” Daniel Tsai said in his testimony.
Daniel Tsai said on Sunday that his father, Tsai Wan-tsai (蔡萬才), founder and former chairman of the Fubon Group, had testified in court that the group wanted to make a political donation to Ma in 2008, but that Ma had refused to accept it. However, he confirmed that the KMT had received donations from Fubon in 2004 and he had later corrected his testimony.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) told reporters on Sunday that he did receive a donation of NT$10 million from Fubon in 2004 on behalf of the KMT and had signed a receipt despite the fact that there were no regulations on political donations at the time.
However, no information on the Tsai family’s donations could be found in the KMT’s political donation data sheets in 2004 and 2008, Chuang said.
The comments by Ma, Wang and Daniel Tsai were inconsistent, which is why Ma and Fubon Financial must clarify the matter by providing more information, Chuang added.
“The KMT should show the receipt of the Fubon political donation to clear things up,” Chuang said.
While Daniel Tsai said he had corrected his testimony afterward, his updated testimony was not accepted by the court, as evidenced by the final written ruling in November last year, Chuang said, adding that the penalty for perjury would be imprisonment for up to seven years.
The DPP also brought up an old case relating to the merger of Fubon Bank (富邦銀行) and TaipeiBank (台北銀行) during Ma’s term as Taipei mayor, saying that Ma failed to avoid a conflict of interest in the merger.
Ma responded with a press conference at noon yesterday to say he had met Fubon executives twice rather than five times, as claimed by the DPP, adding that the meetings all took place after the merger.
With so much uncertainty surrounding Yu Chang Biologics Co (宇昌生技股份有限公司), a biotechnology company that has been at the center of a controversy following accusations by the KMT that Tsai Ing-wen illegally profited from it, the government could not avoid the issue and was obligated to provide a clear explanation to the public, Ma said.
“I’ve spoken to my running mate, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), on the issue and we agree that this is not an election-related issue, but one that concerns the moral standards of government administrators,” Ma said.
Ma said he wanted to ask Tsai Ing-wen what her attitude toward the Yu Chang case was, asking why she did not come out and explain herself on the controversy.
“After all, the Yu Chang case is a case of important national investment and concerns everyone in the nation,” Ma said.
On Wang’s confirmation that the KMT received a political donation from the Tsai family of the Fubon Group during the 2004 election, Ma said he was not familiar with the situation as he was not KMT chairman at the time and had played no role in the matter.
However, Ma said the Fubon case was almost eight to nine years old and had been repeatedly explained, adding that the fact a press conference had to be held again to accept questions on an oft-explained case showed a politician — especially a president — could not have any moral flaws.
“Things have to be given a clear explanation and I am not afraid of being tested,” Ma said. “I hope all politicians can be like this.”
The DPP immediately countered with another press conference, in which the party disclosed what it said were the dates for six meetings between Ma and Fubon executives, on Aug. 8, 2002; Sept. 16, 2002; Jan. 3, 2003; Feb. 17, 2003; Feb. 27, 2003; and Aug. 11, 2003.
In a move seen as retaliation against the KMT’s attack on Tsai Ing-wen over Yu Chang, the DPP cited a document on the merger of Fubon Bank and TaipeiBank in 2002, classified as top secret, to challenge the KMT after the party questioned Tsai Ing-wen for classifying a document on government investment in Yu Chang as top secret when she was vice premier in 2007.
“Ma likes to talk about morality, saying that morality is imperative for any politician even if his or her actions are legal. We’re only asking these questions to expose the KMT’s double standards,” DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said.
Ma was questioned by many in Taipei City Council on the merger years ago, said DPP Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青), who is familiar with the case.
“However, some of the lawsuits we filed against him had been dismissed and now he enjoys judicial immunity as president,” Hsu said.
Ma’s dealings with the merger were questionable on at least three aspects — why the much smaller Fubon Bank was able to merge with TaipeiBank, why the merger was never discussed in city council and why Ma agreed to sell TaipeiBank at a highly undervalued price, she said.
At his press conference, Ma maintained that the merger of the two banks, considered to be the first example of a merger between a government-owned bank and private bank in Taiwan, was a success story at the time, with the Taipei City Government receiving more than 40 percent of Fubon’s shares and NT$10 billion in assets.
“This is because the merger was conducted professionally and not in a closed-door manner. There was an open bidding process and five entities tendered bids,” Ma said, adding that Fubon had been chosen because of its professionalism.
Fubon paid US$2.5 billion to acquire TaipeiBank in August 2002.
Additional reporting by CNA, with translation by Jake Chung, staff writer
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