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Pingtung Council speaker detained in signature buying case

12/26/2023 11:50 AM
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Pingtung County Council Speaker Chou Tien-lun (front left) and Foxconn founder Terry Gou (front right). CNA file photo
Pingtung County Council Speaker Chou Tien-lun (front left) and Foxconn founder Terry Gou (front right). CNA file photo

Taipei, Dec. 26 (CNA) Pingtung County Council Speaker Chou Tien-lun (周典論) was detained Tuesday on suspicion of buying signatures for business tycoon Terry Gou (郭台銘) to help Gou get the endorsements needed for him to run in Taiwan's 2024 presidential election.

Pingtung County prosecutors said that after receiving a tip-off that Chou bought signatures for Gou for NT$200 (US$6.43) apiece, they raided Chou's residence at around 6 a.m. Monday morning and brought Chou in for questioning.

Suspecting that Chou violated the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act, prosecutors filed a motion to detain Chou, which the Pingtung District Court approved early Tuesday, the Pingtung District Prosecutors Office said.

According to Wang Yi-chi (王以齊), a judge with the lower court, Chou denied buying signatures and contended that the funds involved were wages given to staffers to collect signatures.

The judge did not accept Chou's contention as many witnesses testified that the fee was used to buy signatures, testimony that was corroborated by other pieces of evidence, Wang said.

Gou, the founder of major Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (known internationally as Foxconn), announced his bid to run for president as an independent in late August.

To get his name on the ballot, Gou needed to collect 289,667 valid signatures from Taiwanese citizens, representing 1.5 percent of eligible voters in the 2020 presidential election.

Gou begin collecting endorsements on Sept. 20 and officially reached the threshold with a total of 902,389 signatures, according to the Central Election Commission on Nov. 14.

Despite getting enough signatures, Gou, who was trailing in opinion polls with single-digit support, decided to drop out of the race and not formally register his candidacy by the Nov. 24 deadline.

As of Monday, six individuals -- including Chou Pin-chuan (周品全), head of Pingtung's Chaozhou Township -- had been detained on suspicion of buying signatures for Gou, with the investigation ongoing.

(By Lee Hui-ting, Tsai Meng-yu and Chao Yen-hsiang)

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