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Suspect detained in bribery case involving Gou's petition drive

11/03/2023 03:07 PM
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Boxes of signed documents collected to submit and support independent presidential hopeful Terry Gou's bid for presidency are seen in photo provided by Gou's office on Wednesday for illustrative purpose only
Boxes of signed documents collected to submit and support independent presidential hopeful Terry Gou's bid for presidency are seen in photo provided by Gou's office on Wednesday for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, Nov. 3 (CNA) A former ward chief in Taipei has been detained and four other suspects questioned as prosecutors investigate alleged bribes related to the signature collection drive of business tycoon and independent presidential hopeful Terry Gou (郭台銘).

They are being investigated on suspicion of offering cash payments in exchange for signatures, which is against the law, the Shilin District Prosecutors Office said Friday.

The case surfaced earlier this week following a tip-off that a former Taipei ward chief, identified only by his last name Chang (張), collected 1,000 signatures by paying friends and relatives NT$250 (US$7.75) each to endorse the petition.

Chang was allegedly paid NT$200,000 by an unidentified individual to carry out the task, prosecutors said, without elaborating.

Due to the severity of the case, prosecutors asked that Chang be detained, a request that was later granted by a court on Wednesday.

A follow-up investigation then led to four other suspects, surnamed Wu (吳), Chen (陳), Liao (廖) and Su (蘇), who were brought in for questioning Thursday due to their involvement in the case, prosecutors said.

According to sources, Su once served as president of a Beitou District ward chiefs association, and had in the past run for city councilor as an independent.

Liao and Su were each released on NT$300,000 bail on Friday, while Wu and Chen were also let go after questioning as prosecutors continued their investigation.

In Taiwan, candidates running for president as independents rather than as members of political parties must collect the valid signatures of 1.5 percent of eligible voters from the previous presidential election to be put on the presidential ballot.

In Gou's case, that meant he had to collect at least 289,667 signatures to be eligible to run. On Thursday, Gou's office said he submitted 1,036,778 petition signatures to the Central Election Commission for review.

Similar incidents of alleged bribery involving Gou's signature petition have emerged elsewhere around Taiwan, leading other individuals to be questioned and/or detained pending further investigation.

In Kaohsiung, an individual surnamed Lee (李) was detained Thursday by prosecutors for having allegedly paid NT$400 to each person who signed the petition.

He was later identified as team leader of a civic-led friendship group supporting President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

Meanwhile in Yunlin County, a court on Thursday granted a request by prosecutors to detain two suspects working at a farmers' association in Mailiao Township for giving out free toilet paper in exchange for petition signatures.

In New Taipei, seven different locations handling the collection of signatures were raided on Wednesday, during which nearly a dozen people were questioned for their alleged involvement in giving out free rice wine in exchange for signatures.

The majority of the suspects were subsequently each released on bail ranging between NT$10,000 to NT$70,000, according to prosecutors.

(By Hsieh Hsing-en, Sunrise Huang, Hung Hsueh-kuang, Lin Chang-shun and Ko Lin) Enditme/ls

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