Four sitting, ex-lawmakers receive jail time for bribery in SOGO case

07/06/2022 09:17 PM
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Clockwise from top left: DPP Legislator Su Chen-ching, KMT Legislator Liao Kuo-tung, former Legislator Hsu Yung-ming of the New Power Party, independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu and KMT Legislator Chen Chao-ming. CNA file photo
Clockwise from top left: DPP Legislator Su Chen-ching, KMT Legislator Liao Kuo-tung, former Legislator Hsu Yung-ming of the New Power Party, independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu and KMT Legislator Chen Chao-ming. CNA file photo

Taipei, July 6 (CNA) Three legislators and one former lawmaker were found guilty Wednesday of receiving bribes in a case regarding the ownership of the Pacific SOGO department store chain, and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven years and four months to ten years, according to the Taiwan Taipei District Court.

The lawmakers involved are ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清), opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) and Chen Chao-ming (陳超明), as well as former Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) of the New Power Party.

According to the court ruling, Su was sentenced to 10 years, while Liao, Chen, and Hsu were given eight years and six months, seven years and eight months, and seven years and four months, respectively, for violating the Anti-Corruption Act.

The illegal gains obtained by them and their associates, which totaled around NT$30 million (US$1.01 million), were also confiscated. In response to the court ruling, Su, Liao, Chen, and Hsu all expressed disagreement and said they would continue to appeal.

The legislators were investigated and indicted in 2020 for accepting bribes from former Pacific Distribution Investment Co. Chairman Lee Heng-lung (李恆隆) to help Lee in his legal battle against the Far Eastern Group for ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department store chain.

According to prosecutors, Lee made several payments to the lawmakers on different occasions since at least 2012 so they could use their influence to help him retake ownership of Pacific SOGO, one of the most profitable department store chains in Taiwan.

Lee has been engaged in a legal battle with Far Eastern Group Chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) over SOGO's ownership since the early 2000s.

At the heart of the issue was whether Far Eastern's capital injection of NT$4.01 billion from 2002 to 2008 was legal and gave it ownership of the chain by making it the largest shareholder.

Over a legal battle lasting many years, it was found to be legal and illegal on different courts.

However, in a final verdict in 2013, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the capital injections were legal and that the Far Eastern Group was therefore the chain's largest shareholder and rightful owner.

Prosecutors suspected that the bribes paid to the lawmakers around 2013 were used to pressure the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) to amend the Company Act (公司法) clauses on capital increases and make them retroactive so that his company could maintain control of Pacific SOGO.

In 2019, Lee sold some of his shares in Pacific Distribution Investment Co. to a new company to continue his legal pursuit of the department store under the new company's name.

At that time, lawmakers received money from Lee to pressure the MOEA on his behalf, and responded by holding a round of public hearings in December 2019 to pressure the MOEA to change the Company Act to help Lee's cause, according to prosecutors.

The DPP's Su received the largest bribery amount at NT$25.8 million, from which he returned NT$10 million to Lee.

Even though Su had solicited the bribes from Lee, he refused to acknowledge his crimes and did not show remorse for his actions, according to the Taiwan Taipei District Court.

On Wednesday's ruling, Lee was also sentenced to one year and two months, which can be commuted to fines.

Meanwhile, the court also sentenced independent lawmaker Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) to six months on Wednesday after finding him guilty of tax evasion, with the penalty allowed to be commuted to a fine.

Chao was also under investigation because of the indirect involvement of his office director in the SOGO case. During the investigation, prosecutors found that he possessed NT$680,000, for which he did not file taxes.

(By Lin Chang-shun, Kuo Chien-shen, Wang Cheng-chung and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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