Taipei, Aug. 1 (CNA) Chiayi County Magistrate Chang Hua-kuan and her predecessor Chen Ming-wen were released on bail early Wednesday after being questioned overnight by prosecutors on corruption allegations linked to a herbal medicine biotech park project.
Chang was released on bail of NT$3 million (US$100,000) and Chen on NT$1 million.
Prosecutors said the two are suspected of having taken bribes from a developer during the bidding process for the BOT (build, operate and transfer) project between 2004 and 2006 in exchange for helping the developer win the tender.
Chen was the county chief who promoted the project, while Chang was a lawmaker when the bidding on the park was initiated.
Investigators have discovered that "large sums" of money from doubtful sources were flowing into the bank accounts of relatives and close friends of Chang and Chen during the bidding process.
The developer, surnamed Pan, who was released on bail of NT$150,000, confessed to having "lent money" to Chang and Chen or given them political donations.
Upon her release, Chang maintained that she was innocent and said the prosecutors' investigation was "very unjust." She also described the search of Chiayi County government offices a day earlier as "unprecedented" and "disorganized."
Chen, now a lawmaker, meanwhile, said he "has never taken a single penny" in the case and called the incident a "mistake."
A preliminary investigation found that the government and the private sector were each to provide NT$1.5 billion in funding for the project under the BOT model.
The Chiayi County government, however, revoked its contract with the developer in July 2009 after the contractor failed to complete the construction work on time.
In February 2011, the county government decided to change the project from a herbal medicine biotech park to a precision machinery industry park.
The legislative caucus of the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), with which both Chang and Chen are affiliated, expressed doubts about the motives behind the investigation into the matter at a time when a high-profile corruption case involving former Cabinet Secretary General Lin Yi-shih is still evolving.
(By Bear Lee)