ELECTIONS 2022/Protected Formosan serow meat used to buy votes: Prosecutors

11/23/2022 10:32 PM
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A police photo of the dead animal is seen on a mobile device of an official.
A police photo of the dead animal is seen on a mobile device of an official.

Taipei, Nov. 23 (CNA) A candidate running for district council in Taichung is being investigated for having a protected Formosan serow killed and gifting meat taken from the animal's carcass to persuade voters to cast their ballots in her favor, one of over 3,367 vote-buying allegations so far tallied across Taiwan ahead of Saturday's elections, officials said.

Since late September, the candidate surnamed Kuan (管) has been attempting to buy votes with various freebies, including Formosan serow meat, a protected species endemic to Taiwan, and sweet persimmon, Taichung prosecutors said in a press release Wednesday.

Each voter visiting Kuan's residence, which doubles as her campaign office, was also given several hundred Taiwan dollars, prosecutors said.

Kuan and eight others, including three voters who received the gifts, were questioned on Nov. 22 when prosecutors raided eight locations and found evidence linked to the alleged malfeasance.

The candidate running in Heping District claimed the gifts were offered in the spirit of "sharing" with her tribe in the indigenous community, prosecutors said in the statement.

Kuan was released on bail of NT$100,000 (US$3,205) Wednesday on suspicion of violating the Wildlife Conservation Act and the Civil Servants Election And Recall Act, prosecutors said, adding that the three voters were released on bail of NT$10,000 each.

Under Taiwan's system, an act of vote-buying is not defined by how much a gift is worth but by the alleged perpetrator's intention and whether the offer impacts a voter's choice, according to a press release by the Supreme Prosecutors Office in October.

The statement also noted that the widely held belief in Taiwan that an act of vote-buying only occurs when a freebie is worth NT$30 (US$1) or more is no longer true and has not been for over 20 years.

Taiwan votes on Saturday to select 11,023 public officials in nine different types of posts, from mayors and city councilors to ward chiefs, as well as in a referendum on whether to amend the Constitution and lower both the voting age and the minimum age of candidacy to 18.

"The number of instances of prosecutors opening investigation into alleged vote buying is expected to rise in the coming days," Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥), told a legislative committee Wednesday.

Prosecutors have recorded 3,367 alleged acts of vote-buying under a category that suggests insufficient evidence for investigation, with 119 people in 140 cases being indicted, Tsai said, adding that 65 individuals have been detained and are in custody, he added.

Independent candidate Huang Yuan-fu (黃源甫), who is running for Hsinchu's top job, has been charged by prosecutors with offering nasal irrigators in return for votes, the first mayoral or magistrate candidate to be indicted as of Wednesday.

In addition, four alleged vote brokers working for a person surnamed Huang (黃) running for ward chief in Houlong Township, Miaoli County, were indicted Wednesday for handing out cash to 11 voters -- NT$1,000 each -- in exchange for their support, local prosecutors said.

In Hualien County, prosecutors believe a candidate surnamed Chiang (江) running for Wanrong village council in the eastern Taiwan county offered between NT$1,000 and NT$3,000 for each vote he received, local prosecutors said.

Similar cases have also been reported by prosecutors in Tainan, Chiayi City, Chiayi County, Taoyuan and Nantou County Wednesday.

(By Su Mu-chun, Huang Li-yun, Chang Chi, Kuan Jui-ping, Wang Cheng-chung, Hsiao Po-wen and Shih Hsiu-chuan)

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