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Control Yuan to probe allegations against new education minister

2018/04/24 20:56:05

Taipei, April 24 (CNA) The Control Yuan on Tuesday launched an investigation into allegations that new Minister of Education Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆) had founded a company in the United States in 2015 while he was employed as a public servant.

Control Yuan member Kao Feng-hsien (高鳳仙), who has initiated the investigation, said in a statement that the probe will focus on whether Wu had broken the public service law relating to conflict of interest.

Under the Public Servant Services Act, civil servants not allowed to operate commercial or speculation businesses or own more than a 10 percent share in a private limited company.

Wu, a distinguished research fellow in physics at Taiwan's top research institute, allegedly founded Spiranthes Biotech, LLC in the U.S. in August 2015 while he was president of National Dong Hwa University (NDHU) in Hualien County, Kao said.

The company allegedly specializes in technologies related to extracts of spiranthes, a species of orchids, and is registered in the names of Wu, Kao said.

In December 2017, the company acquired a patent in China for spiranthes extracts and their application in medicine, which was registered to Wu, Kao said.

However, Kao said, NDHU had already obtained a patent for spiranthes extracts eight months earlier, registered to four students and teachers, including Wu.

The NDHU patent had not been transferred to any individual or entity, which leaves open the questions of whether Wu had transferred the technology illegally and was working for a private company, Kao said.

She said the Control Yuan, the government branch that regulates civil servants and public agencies, will examine issues of patent rights and conduct of a public servant, in particular whether Wu had violated the Public Servant Services Act.

The allegations against Wu were raised Monday by opposition Kuomintang lawmaker Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) during a legislative hearing, days after Wu was sworn in as minister of education.

Wu, who served as NDHU president from 2012 to 2016, came up with the idea for the university's research on spiranthes extracts, which were found to have anti-inflammatory properties, according to NDHU.

A physicist specializing in superconductivity, low-temperature physics and high-pressure physics, Wu was appointed recently to take over the post of education minister after Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) resigned amid a controversy over the appointment of a national university president.

(By Claudia Liu and Elizabeth Hsu)