Taiwan legislature to probe influence-peddling claims against lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 4:53am

Taiwan's legislature will launch its own investigation into influence-peddling allegations against two legislative leaders that have triggered a stability-threatening political crisis.

The probe was requested by Democratic Progressive Party whip Ker Chien-ming, who has been accused of enlisting the help of legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng to get a criminal prosecution against him dropped.

"I am willing to accept any results that are made in a fair and transparent way," Ker said in a news conference. The legislature, which opened its new session on Tuesday, was expected to act after it forms a new disciplinary committee on Monday.

The influence-peddling claims, which were detailed by special investigators for the Supreme Prosecutors Office on September 6, led Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou to push for Wang's expulsion from the ruling Koumingtang, effectively removing him as speaker.

The KMT's disciplinary committee removed Wang last week, but a court order has put the action on hold. The KMT is currently appealing against the decision.

Yesterday, Wang said he would co-operate fully with the legislature's investigation. A finding in favour of Wang and Ker could bolster Ma's critics who say the president unfairly rushed to judgment on Wang.

Ker said he would also ask the legislature to examine whether Prosecutor General Huang Shih-ming overstepped his powers under the constitution by tapping lawmakers' phones.

Investigators have released wiretap transcripts appearing to show Ker calling Wang for help and Wang in turn lobbying former justice minister Tseng Yung-fu for leniency in the case. At the time, prosecutors were considering whether to appeal against a not guilty verdict in a breach-of-trust case involving Ker.

Wang has said he sought only to remind Tseng of the legislature's opposition to wasteful and unnecessary prosecutions. Tseng has since resigned.

Ma's popularity, already low due to growing public resentment over his government's inability to improve the sagging economy, has slipped further to 9 per cent according to a recent opinion poll by ERA cable television. The same poll found 63 per cent of the respondents thought his handling of the allegations was unacceptable.