Independent Chiayi County councilor candidate and convicted game-fixer Tsai Cheng-yi’s (蔡政宜) first campaign event Friday drew the ire of baseball fans, who said that the man who once ruined the nation’s professional baseball league would, if elected, also ruin Chiayi.
Tsai’s run for county councilor, which he started by inaugurating his campaign office in Chiayi’s Dongshi Township (東石), marks his return to the national spotlight after he was in 2014 sentenced to three years and eight months in jail for his involvement in a 2009 game-fixing scandal.
Tsai, 49, was the alleged mastermind behind a gambling syndicate that paid players in exchange for causing their teams to lose games, bringing the CPBL to the brink of folding.
Despite registering independently, Tsai is seen as closely affiliated with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), as his uncle, Tsai Ching-yuan (蔡慶源), is a veteran KMT member who served three terms as Kaohsiung city councilor.
Dongshi residents have said that Tsai Cheng-yi is also aligned with Lee Liu-sung (李流宋), a KMT member and leader of a local faction who served two terms as the township’s mayor.
At the time of his verdict, prosecutors said that Tsai Cheng-yi had also worked with former Tainan County council speaker Wu Chien-pao (吳健保) of the KMT, who later served a three-year, two-month jail term for running a gambling ring.
Wu in 2014 fled to the Philippines, but was in 2019 repatriated and started serving his sentence.
Tsai Cheng-yi started running his own ring in 2006, which paid players in cash, and treated them at nightclubs and hostess bars, but also threatened to harm players’ family members, prosecutors said.
After the operation came to light, investigators questioned more than 60 players and coaches at four CPBL teams — the Chinatrust Brother Elephants (later renamed the CTBC Brothers), the La New Bears (later renamed the Rakuten Monkeys), and the now-defunct Chinatrust Whales and dmedia T-Rex, they said.
Prosecutors found that Tsai Cheng-yi’s ring had the closest links to the Brother Elephants, including players Tsao Chin-hui (曹錦輝), Chen Chih-yuan (陳致遠), Tsai Fong-an (蔡豐安), Liao Yu-cheng (廖于誠), Huang Cheng-wei (黃正偉), Wang Ching-li (王勁力), Chu Hong-sheng (朱鴻森) and Chuang Pei-chuan (莊培全).
While most of the players and coaches who were found guilty were handed suspended jail terms or fines, Tsai Cheng-yi was one of four members of his ring to be sentenced to jail terms by the High Court in 2014.
He was released on parole in 2016.
News of Tsai Cheng-yi’s plan to enter politics sparked a furor among baseball fans, with many in online forums and on social media in the past few weeks vowing to join protests at his campaign events.
On Friday, a group of protesters led by New Power Party Taipei city councilor candidate Jerry Liu (劉仕傑) held banners near Tsai Cheng-yi’s campaign office, saying that he might also ruin the county.
Other banners, referring to him by his nickname, said: “Refuse the Windshield Wiper, ensure Tsai Cheng-yi loses his election.”
“What happened in 2009 was the worst scandal in Taiwanese baseball history... Tsai Cheng-yi’s scheme nearly destroyed baseball in the nation,” Jerry Liu said.
“As a supporter of the former Brother Elephants, I cannot accept that he is running for public office. None of the baseball fans I know is willing to forgive him,” he said, adding that Tsai Cheng-yi being elected would harm Taiwanese society.
Meanwhile, Tsai Cheng-yi told about 2,000 supporters at his campaign office that he is returning as a “reformed man.”
“I have done wrong in the past, but I accepted my punishment. I am returning as a reformed man, entering the race for Chiayi County councilor to serve the people of this township.”
Tsai Ching-yuan said: “He was just like most young men, making mistakes now and then.”
Tsai Cheng-yi should get a second chance because “all our family members are honest and humble. We have donated for charities and local causes. Tsai Cheng-yi will work hard to bolster social welfare services in the township and attract funding for projects,” Tsai Ching-yuan said.
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