Hsinchu Mayor Ann Kao (高虹安) of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) yesterday was indicted on corruption charges after she was accused of making fraudulent payroll deductions and misusing public funds.
After an eight-month investigation, the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office formally charged Kao with breaching the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) and falsifying documents from Feb. 27 to Dec. 31, 2020, when she served as a legislator-at-large.
Kao has repeatedly denied the allegations.
However, prosecutors decided not to indict Kao in another case in which she was accused of breach of trust when working for the government-sponsored Institute for Information Industry due to insufficient evidence.
Kao was previously accused of taking advantage of research-and-development work to apply for patents under her name instead of her employer.
Kao was named as a suspect in the corruption case in December last year after prosecutors ordered a raid of her offices and summoned her for questioning.
Kao was suspected of falsely registering her boyfriend, Lee Chung-ting (李忠庭), as an office assistant and using public funds to pay his salary, while also taking money from legislative aides’ salaries that she paid into a “provident fund” for her personal expenses.
In the indictment, prosecutors said Kao had misused more than NT$460,000 (US$14,409) of public funds through the fraudulent payroll deductions.
Kao’s legislative office directors Chen Huan-yu (陳奐宇) and Huang Hui-wen (黃惠玟), as well as aides Wang Yu-wen (王郁文) and Chen Yi-kai (陳昱愷), were charged with corruption for following Kao’s instructions regarding the payroll deductions.
However, Lee was not indicted because prosecutors determined that he had actually carried out duties as an aide to Kao.
Prosecutors said Kao received a salary of more than NT$190,000 as a legislator-at-large and an additional allowance of NT$70,000 per month, and had more than NT$12 million in savings, but still colluded with aides to access public money for her personal spending.
They added that her attitude was poor throughout the investigation.
Prosecutors requested that the court impose an appropriate jail sentence on her and deprive her of her civil rights.
Kao responded by saying prosecutors had failed to take all factors into account and that the indictment was reckless.
Kao added that the indictment was politically motivated, and vowed to defend herself and her aides in court.
She said she had confidence that the judicial system would not be influenced by political factors.
The Hsinchu mayor said she had not ruled out the possibility of filing a lawsuit against those who had made “false accusations” about her.
Citing the Local Government Act (地方制度法), an official from Hsinchu County’s Civil Affairs Department told the Central News Agency that local government heads would be suspended from duty if they are found guilty of corruption by the court of first instance, and their deputy would become acting mayor.
If the court of second instance reverses the decision made by the lower court and they are found not guilty, they can resume their post, but if they are found guilty, they would be dismissed from office and a by-election would be held within three months.
However, if the dismissal is ordered at a time when the public servant has less than two years of their term remaining, a by-election is not needed and the Executive Yuan can instead name a replacement to see out the rest of the term, the official said.
Therefore, despite the indictment, Kao is, for now, able to remain in her job, they said.
Kao was elected Hsinchu mayor on Nov. 26 last year and she took office on Dec. 25.
Speaking with reporters, Chen Chih-han (陳智菡), a spokesperson in TPP Chairman Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) office, said the TPP supports Kao and believes the mayor would be able to provide more evidence in court to clear her name.
Democratic Progressive Party Hsinchu City Councilors said that Kao, who has been a controversial figure since the mayoral election campaign last year, owes the public an apology and should step down immediately.
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