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Embattled Academia Sinica head under more pressure to resign

2016/04/25 14:01:44

Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (center) Leaves after a meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou.

Taipei, April 25 (CNA) Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey (翁啟惠), who has been banned from leaving the country on suspicion of insider trading and corruption, is facing more pressure to resign after he failed to do so during a meeting with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) Monday.

After being listed a possible defendant April 21 for his controversial dealings with biotech firm OBI Pharma Inc., Wong has been under pressure from Academia Sinica and some lawmakers to resign. His resignation was widely expected to be presented in his Monday meeting with Ma.

However, Wong did not tender his resignation. Instead, he delivered a letter to Ma in which he only stated that he will authorize his deputy to handle the important matters of the institute and that he will hand over the position to his successor ahead of the original schedule once a new head is selected.

In the letter, Wong, a world-renowned biochemist, extended his deep apology for the controversy resulting from his public comments on the results of clinical trials of a failed breast cancer drug developed by OBI Pharma and his failure to reveal that his daughter holds OBI shares.

He denied insider trading and manipulation of stock prices, and maintained that he had not "sold Academia Sinica technologies at cheap prices or committed corruption."

"I have spared no efforts in assisting Taiwan's scientific research and biotechnology development," he wrote, and thus, "Taiwan has taken the lead in the area of carbohydrate chemistry and the application of glycoproteins in medicine," Wong said in the letter.

Wong vowed to coorperate with the investigation and help unveil the truth, in an effort to defend his innocence.

Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信) said after the Ma-Wong meeting that President Ma has expressed hope that Wong will reconsider his decision, which Ma said is not quite what the public expects.

After learning that Wong had not resigned, Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Wang Yu-min (王育敏), a caucus whip, said the caucus strongly demands Wong's immediate resignation.

As Wong has been invited to report his dealings with Taipei-based OBI Pharma in a hearing that the legislative Education and Culture Committee will hold on Wednesday, KMT Legislator Chen Shei-saint (陳學聖), who heads the committee, said it would be better for Wong to tender his resignation voluntarily.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also expressed hope that Wong will resign as soon as possible.

DPP spokesman Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) said the party believes Wong is not suitable for the job and should resign as soon as possible so that the country's highest academic institute can resume its normal operations as soon as possible.

The DPP also expressed hope that the relevant authorities can bring the truth to the public as soon as possible.

Wong was listed April 21 as a possible defendant in the OBI Pharma case and barred from leaving the country by prosecutors probing insider trading allegations involving the company.

He could be formally indicted for corruption and breach of trust after being questioned by prosecutors April 20 along with 10 others, including OBI Pharma Chairman Michael Chang (張念慈), also listed as a potential defendant in the case. Chang has been released on NT$1 million (US$3,100) bail.

Wong has admitted to providing funds for his daughter to purchase shares in OBI Pharma, which is developing a new breast cancer drug.

Wong sold some of those shares just days before OBI Pharma reported that the results of Phase 2/3 clinical trials of the drug did not meet expectations, causing the company's stock price to plummet.

But the Academia Sinica chief said it was not insider trading, because he did not know the results of the trial when the shares were sold.

After investigators for the Taipei prosecutors office searched his office and summoned him for questioning, legislators across the political spectrum called on him to quit his job as leader of the nation's highest academic research institution.

(By Claudia Liu, Justin Su, Lu Hsin-hui and Elizabeth Hsu)