Taiwan Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu quits amid allegations
Government watchdog will look into claims of influence-peddling in DPP lawmaker's case
Taiwanese Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu resigned last night after internal investigators accused him of using his influence to quash criminal action against a prominent opposition legislator.
The special investigation division under the Supreme Prosecutor's Office said in a news conference that Tseng and the head of the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office, Chen Shou-huang, intervened to stop prosecutors from appealing against a not guilty verdict in a breach-of-trust case gainst Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Ker Chien-ming.
Even though no money or bribery was involved, investigators still viewed the alleged act as improper, and said the irregularities should be subject to impeachment and disciplinary action by the authorities.
"For this we have referred the case to the Control Yuan" to see if Tseng should be impeached, said Yang Jung-tsung, a spokesman of the division.
The Control Yuan is the island's top government watchdog responsible for censuring or impeaching senior government officials. Neither Tseng nor Chen would be charged with bribery nor other crimes because they did not receive any financial rewards, the investigators said, adding that Wang and Ker as legislators also enjoy immunity for statements they make.
Prosecutors did not file any appeal against Ker's not guility verdict.
As a member of the prosecution authorities, Yang said the division had asked the Justice Ministry's prosecutor evaluation committee to see if Chen's alleged actions required a disciplinary response.
The investigators said that wiretaps on Ker's phone in a separate judicial case in June revealed that Ker sought help from Chen and Tseng through legislature speaker Wang Jin-pyng. Tseng and Chen yesterday sternly denied the allegations, while Wang was not available for comment. Tseng later offered his resignation in a meeting with Premier Jiang Yi-huah, who accepted his request in a bid to facilitate further probe in the case, the cabinet said in a statement.
The allegations have dealt a blow to both the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou and the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.