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Ma rebuts opposition's political donation allegation

2011/12/19 19:38:10

Taipei, Dec. 19 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou denied Monday an allegation by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that he accepted a political donation of NT$15 million (US$493,924) from a banking tycoon in 2008 when he was seeking the presidency for the first time.

The president also pointed out that he had denied on several previous occasions that he accepted a political donation from Daniel Tsai, chairman of the Taipei Fubon Financial Holding Co. and that he was "not afraid to be challenged"on the issue.

Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP chairwoman and Ma's main rival in the Jan. 14 presidential election, questioned him over the weekend about his relationship with Fubon, in particular about political donations made by Fubon Chairman Daniel Tsai, and about Ma having dined with Fubon officials five times, calling it "morally flawed."

DPP spokesman Chuang Jui-hsiung produced a court verdict earlier that day showing that the court had heard testimony from Daniel Tsai that he donated the NT$15 million to the KMT.

Daniel Tsai said a day earlier that Ma rejected an offer of a political donation in 2008, although Fubon did donate to the Kuomintang in 2004. The bank chief also said that he mixed up the years in his court testimony and that when he discovered the error, he submitted a receipt for the donation that is purported to show the true date of the donation.

Ma said Monday he had been careful to avoid any conflict of interest during his stint as Taipei mayor when he defended a merger between Taipei Bank and Fubon Bank, saying that the merger was conducted cleanly.

The president noted that the merger of the two banks, considered to be the first example in Taiwan of a merger between a government-owned bank and private bank, was a success story at the time, with Taipei City receiving more than 40 percent of Fubon's shares and NT$10 billion in assets.

"This is because the merger was conducted in a professional and not in a closed-door way. There was an open bidding process and five entities tendered bids," Ma went on, adding that Fubon was chosen based on professionalism in 2002.

The two banks formally merged in 2005 and Ma stepped down as Taipei mayor in 2006 after serving two four-year terms.

"Because of the merger of Taipei bank and Fubon Bank, I could not accept donations from anyone who has business relations with them, which was the ethical rule I followed when I was mayor," Ma said.

Ma also denied that he dined with Fubon officials five times, saying the meetings took place on only two occasions, both of which followed the signing of the merger deal in 2002.

Meanwhile, Ma also challenged his election rival to come forward and give a clear explanation of a government investment in a biotech joint venture in which she has been accused by the KMT of having a conflict of interest.

"Political figures, especially presidents, cannot be allowed to have any stains on their integrity,"he said.

(By Kelven Huang and Lilian Wu)