TAIWAN

Taiwan's chief prosecutor charged with leaking legal secrets

Huang Shyh-ming accused of illegally divulging details about an investigation to Taiwan's leader

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 4:34pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 3:24am

Taiwanese top prosecutor Huang Shyh-ming has been charged with leaking classified information about an investigation involving the legislative speaker to the island's president.

Huang, the prosecutor general, has denied the accusation and said he would resign if found guilty. He faces up to three years in jail if convicted. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, of the ruling Kuomintang, could also be charged over the matter, legal experts said, but he has immunity until his term expires in 2016.

Citing two reports provided by Ma, Taipei prosecutors said Huang had improperly disclosed details about wiretapped telephone conversations that allegedly showed speaker Wang Jin-pyng had lobbied top judicial officials on behalf of a key Democratic Progressive Party figure. It was illegal to divulge details of an inquiry that was not completed, said a spokesman for the Taipei District Public Prosecutors Office.

"For this, the defendant was found to have violated the Criminal Code and the Communication Security and Surveillance Act, which bar people from leaking investigation materials to others before the investigation is completed," the spokesman said.

It is the first time Taiwan's top prosecutor has been indicted on criminal charges.

According to the indictment, Huang went to see Ma on the night of August 31 to brief him about the telephone calls. The wiretaps allegedly revealed Wang had pressed leading judicial officials to intervene in a matter involving Ker Chien-ming, the legislative caucus whip of the pro-independence DPP. Wang allegedly did not want a prosecutor to appeal a not-guilty verdict that Ker had received in a criminal breach-of-trust case.

Huang went to see Ma again at the president's request and brief him further on the case. Ma told prosecutors last month that Huang gave him two reports about the alleged influence peddling and he was unaware any investigation had yet to be completed.

Prosecutors questioned Ma over the matter on October 4. They also asked Premier Jiang Yi-huah, then deputy presidential secretary-general Lo Chih-chiang and Huang to testify, but decided to only list Huang as a defendant in the leak-of-secrets case.

In a statement responding to the charges, Huang said he would step down if convicted. He insisted that what he did was right as it shed light on a culture of influence-peddling that was pervasive in the legislature.

Ma's office said the president respected any decision made by the prosecutors' office.

DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang has demanded Ma be charged at the end of his term over his involvement in the matter.

After the allegations of influence-peddling emerged, Ma asked the KMT to strip Wang of his party membership and force him out as speaker. But Wang resisted and twice won a court injunction to temporarily freeze the KMT action. The fight continued throughout September, and saw Ma's approval rating slip to a new low of 9.2 per cent. After numerous pacification efforts by KMT leaders, the two appeared to call a truce late last month.