18 Taiwan city councilors are questioned in corruption case

18 Taiwan city councilors are questioned in corruption case

TAIPEI - Keelung prosecutors yesterday summoned and questioned 18 city councilors - more than half of the total number - as suspects in an alleged case of corruption involving a public construction project.

Keelung District Prosecutors Office (KDPO) spokesman Chou Chi-yung yesterday said his office received a complaint about a street expansion project for Yue Mei Street carried out by the Keelung City Government that may have involved illegal activities.

The KDPO later discovered that Keelung applied for a NT$500 million (S$20 million) subsidy from the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) for the street expansion project. Prosecutors said, however, that it is not necessary to expand Yue Mei Street as there are few residents living near it.

Prosecutors further said that some city councilors originally opposed the project, but later approved the project proposal. The KDPO suspects that the changed minds and subsequent approval of the project may have involved corruption.

The KDPO yesterday led 140 investigators, including officers of the Investigation Bureau and the Agency Against Corruption (AAC), to search the Keelung City Council building, residences and the offices of the 18 city councilors.

Keelung Department of Public Works Director-General Lee Tung-cheng and Keelung City Council Secretary-General Yeh Ching-tung were also summoned for questioning as witnesses, the KDPO said. The city council's meeting minutes and account books were seized by prosecutors, the office said.

Keelung City Council Vice Speaker Soong Wei-li said she believes her colleagues are all innocent. She said the prosecutors' mass search on the city council does affect the city councilors' morale for the upcoming election.

When asked if the search operation has anything to do with Keelung City Council Speaker Huang Ching-tai's alleged corruption and improper lobbying case, Chou said he cannot comment further on the issue.

Earlier in June, the prosecutors searched the city council building and attempted to detain Huang over the alleged corruption. Huang, who was previously nominated by the Kuomintang (KMT) to run in the mayoral election, is accused of pressuring Keelung City officials to benefit a certain construction consortium.

The KMT later revoked Huang's nomination and named former National Immigration Agency Director-General Hsieh Li-kung as its Keelung mayoral candidate, despite the fact that prosecutors have not made a formal indictment against Huang. The city council speaker, however, is still insisting on running for the Keelung mayoral post at the end of this year.

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