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Bail for former Taoyuan mayor overturned by High Court

07/08/2024 11:08 PM
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Former Vice Premier Cheng Wen-tsan. CNA file photo
Former Vice Premier Cheng Wen-tsan. CNA file photo

Taipei, July 8 (CNA) The Taiwan High Court on Monday overturned a lower court decision to grant bail to former Vice Premier Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), who is being investigated for corruption while serving as Taoyuan mayor from December 2014 to December 2022.

The High Court revoked the original ruling and ordered another bail hearing because of several unanswered questions left by the Taoyuan District Court in allowing bail, including why it ignored the possibility of collusion between Cheng and other witnesses.

According to the high court, the district court did not explain its reasons for releasing Cheng nor did it raise the possibility that Cheng might contact accomplices or witnesses to discuss the case, tamper with evidence, or collude on their testimony.

The case came to light Friday when Cheng was summoned by the Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office as part of an investigation into alleged corruption involving a land zoning deal that occurred while he was mayor of Taoyuan.

After questioning him, prosecutors suspected Cheng had accepted a bribe, leaked information to other suspects in the case, and laundered money, and they filed a motion to detain Cheng and hold him incommunicado.

The district court, however, denied the motion on Saturday and ordered the release of Cheng on NT$5 million (US$154,057) bail.

The court argued that because prosecutors had collected detailed evidence of the suspect's involvement in the corruption case, which occurred seven years ago, there was no need to detain him.

Regarding Cheng's suspected involvement in money laundering, the district court said that while Cheng took a NT$5 million payment that may have been related to a developer's plans to expand the Hwa Ya Technology Park in Linkou in 2017, he returned the money the next year.

There was therefore no evidence supporting charges that Cheng concealed illegal proceeds, resulting in the district court's decision to release him on bail, it said.

The district court did note, however, that Cheng still remained subject to restrictions on his movements and was barred from leaving Taiwan, and he was also prohibited from contacting other suspects and witnesses in the case.

The prosecutors subsequently appealed the decision to the High Court, which ordered that another hearing be held.

After receiving the High Court's ruling Monday evening, the Taoyuan District Court scheduled a new hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

In related developments, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, of which Cheng is a member, said Monday it decided during an extraordinary meeting that if Cheng were detained, he would be suspended for three years.

If he were found guilty in a first trial (before any appeal could be filed), there would be further discussion of punishment that could lead to Cheng being expelled from the party.

After serving as Taoyuan mayor, Cheng became vice premier in January 2023 and stayed in the post until May 20, 2024, when he was appointed chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) in a new administration.

He stepped down from his SEF post on Sunday amid the corruption allegations.

(By Liu Shih-yi, Yeh Su-ping and Evelyn Kao)


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