Taipei, June 28 (CNA) Prosecutors want to question the owner of a Kaohsiung-based company as part of an investigation into alleged corruption involving Executive Yuan Secretary-General Lin Yi-shih.
Chen Hung-ta, spokesman of the Special Investigation Division (SID) under the Supreme Prosecutors Office, said Thursday that the office had begun investigating and collecting evidence in the wake of a local tabloid report about alleged corruption by Lin.
As the whereabouts of Chen Chi-hsiang -- the owner of Kaohsiung-based Ti Yung Co. who told Next magazine that Lin had taken bribes -- could not be found, the SID asked the Kaohsiung Prosecutors Office to help locate him.
Chen Hung-ta said that once the company owner is contacted, the SID will summon him for questioning.
According to the Next report, Lin received a bribe of NT$63 million from Chen Chi-hsiang to help his company secure a slag treatment contract from China Steel Corp. (CSC) two years ago, when Lin was a legislator of the ruling Kuomintang.
Lin later demanded a further NT$83 million from Chen between February and March this year. When Chen refused to pay up, Lin in April instructed China Steel Corp. (CSC) to stop supplying slag to Ti Yung for treatment, according to the magazine.
The minor opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) said that an independent committee should be set up to investigate Lin's case.
TSU Convener Hsu Chung-hsin said Lin's alleged acceptance of bribes has tarnished the image of the Legislature. In his present post as Cabinet secretary-general, Lin can influence the Ministry of Justice, which is why the party thinks an independent committee is warranted, said Hsu.
However, Hsu Yao-chang, a whip of the ruling Kuomintang, described the TSU's suggestion as being without merit, saying that whether or not Lin has been involved in corruption should be left for the prosecutors to probe.
Huang Wei-cher, the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) whip, said the DPP respects the stance of the TSU but added that since the SID has already begun an investigation, the matter should not be dealt with politically, to avoid an escalation of the confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties.
People First Party whip Lee Tung-hao echoed Hsu, saying that Lin's alleged corruption has hurt the image of the government, and he called for rapid clarification of the issue from the Cabinet.
DPP Legislator Cheng Li-chiun asked Lin to clearly explain his relationship with Chen Chi-hsiang and a liaison official at CSC, saying that there are news photos of the three together, which shows that they are close friends.
Cabinet spokesman Hu Yu-wei, for his part, quoted Premier Sean Chen as expressing hope that day that Lin will face the reports squarely and offer a reasonable explanation.
On demands by the opposition that Lin be removed from his post, Hu said the premier will make no arrangements toward that end before the matter has been clarified.
Hu noted that Lin attended a Cabinet meeting that same day, but the premier instructed him to leave early. The premier also told him to gather key information and prepare a clarifying report.
A day earlier, Lin had described the reports of his bribe-taking as unfounded and said he was prepared to take legal action against the magazine to defend his reputation.
Meanwhile, CSC has said the reason it decided to stop supplying slag to Ti Yung is because it was informed by the Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau that the company was dumping excessive amounts of the industrial waste, which was a violation of its contract with CSC.
Lin has said he had no authority to dictate policy or action to the bureau.
Also on Wednesday, President Ma Ying-jeou instructed Lin to provide a clear explanation to the public. The president stressed that integrity is the most basic moral requirement for civil servants and that the same criteria should apply to all members of his administration.
(By Liu Shih-yi, Hsieh Chia-chen, Sophia Yeh, Ho Meng-qui, Tseng Ying-yu, Sherry Tang and Lilian Wu)