Aide of Taipei mayoral candidate arrested over alleged wiretapping of campaign HQ

Illustration file picture of a man typing on a computer keyboard.

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- An aide to Ko Wen-je was arrested yesterday by Taipei prosecutors looking into alleged wiretapping of the independent Taipei mayoral hopeful's office, but his lawyer said there was no evidence in support of the arrest.

The aide, Peng Sheng-shao, was listed as a defendant and handcuffed after being questioned by prosecutors.

The prosecutors said they would release him on NT$30,000 '(S$1,300) bond, but his lawyer, Yuan Hsiu-hui, said his client had yet to decide whether he would post bail.

One of Ko's chief campaign aides, Chang Chin-sen, said he doesn't believe Peng was a "mole".

The hopeful's spokesperson, Chien Yu-yen, said Peng, who is about 30 years old, was selected as an aide from a pool of volunteers.

Investigators started the probe after receiving complaints on Nov. 4 from Ko's aides that they suspected that the candidate's office in Taipei had been wiretapped.

Subsequent searches by the investigators on the building's telephone switch box uncovered devices that could be used to eavesdrop on telephone conversations at the Ko office.

Two technicians had been employed by the Ko office to check the switch box earlier prior to the aides reporting to police about alleged wiretapping.

Peng's arrest followed shortly after the two technicians were questioned by prosecutors.

One of the technicians reportedly admitted that he planted the wiretapping device while checking the switch box, according to the United Evening News. But he denied that he was doing it on instructions from others, claiming he believed the subsequent uncovering of the device would "boost" his business, the paper added.

The two technicians were set free after the questioning.

According to the newspaper, the Ko office employed the technicians through Peng, and it was Peng who first discovered the wiretapping device.

Asked if the wiretapping was staged by his aide, Ko dismissed it as "excessive speculation," as he took part in a public event on the last Saturday in the lead-up to the Nov. 29 vote.

"You talk as much as the evidence allows," said Ko.

He said he believes the prosecutors will handle the case impartially, urging them to make public their findings at some point during their investigation.

Ko said he does not know much about Peng and others working under his top campaign aides.

He stressed the one of the key issues is how his major rival was able to obtain confidential information concerning his plans, which had prompted suspicions that his office had been wiretapped.

In response to the arrest, Sean Lien, Ko's major competitor from the ruling Kuomintang, urged prosecutors to conclude the investigation as soon as possible, and make public the findings before election day.

Lien's campaign manager, Tsai Cheng-yuan, claimed the latest development proved that it was Ko's aide who had the technician plant the wiretapping device.