Taiwan - Corruption
Corruption has become endemic in Taiwan over the past decade. Although recent governments have made anti-corruption a priority, there has been little real progress. Corruption has been reported as most pervasive in the area of government procurement, particularly in public-sector construction projects. Local-level construction tenders seem to have the highest level of corruption. Some prosecutors estimate that payments to organized crime syndicates amount to 8 to 15 percent of the cost of all public engineering projects. The authorities have been investigating alleged corrupt procurement practices at both the provincial and central level. These investigations have resulted in a few convictions.
The current prevalence of high-level corruption problems underscores that Taiwan's leaders are lacking in character and integrity, and do not understand the need for self-restraint in a democratic system.
Former President Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan’s third-straight former leader to be prosecuted after leaving office. Following a six-month investigation, in March 2017 the Taipei District Public Prosecutor’s Office charged Ma with violations of the Communication Security and Surveillance Act and the Personal Information Protection Act related to an alleged 2013 wiretapping incident. The case will be heard at the Taipei District Court and a decision is expected by March 28. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of three years. Ma maintains his innocence.
President Chen was re-elected by 50.1% of the popular vote to a second term in a very tight contest on March 20, 2004. The election was marred by a shooting incident the day before the election during which President Chen and his running mate Vice President Annette Lu were slightly wounded. While the opposition contested the results, it was the first time that the DPP had won an outright majority in an island-wide election.
In September 2008, former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian and his wife were convicted on corruption and money laundering charges and sentenced to life in prison. In June 2010 the Taipei High Court upheld the conviction of former president Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen for corruption, money laundering, forgery, and embezzlement but reduced the sentences from life to twenty years in prison. Chen remained in custody while he appealed his high court conviction. After losing the appeal to the Supreme Court, Chen began serving his 17-year jail term at the Taipei Prison in December 2010.
Taiwan's devoted baseball fans were thrown a curve ball in 2005 by a high-profile baseball scam involving players accused of throwing games for betting syndicates. After a yearlong investigation by the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB), ten people were arrested in late July 2005 for participation in a game-fixing ring that paid pitchers and catchers in cash (up to NT $160000, equivalent to US $5000) or kind (sexual services) to throw games. According to police estimates, the ring made NT$100 million (US $3.1 million) over the past year. Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), founded in 1989, has been the island's only professional league since its 2003 merger with the Taiwan Major League. The six-team league was hit by a game-fixing scandal in 1997, when 18 players, a manager, and two bookmakers were convicted and jailed, shocking the sport's rabid fans and sending the sport's popularity into a dive.
Taiwan has implemented laws, regulations, and penalties to combat corruption. The Corruption Punishment Statute and the Criminal Code contain specific penalties for corrupt activities, including maximum jail sentences of life in prison and a maximum fine of up to NT$100 million (US$3.3 million). In April 2009, the Legislative Yuan amended the Act for the Punishment of Corruption to bring criminal charges against civil servants who fail to account for abnormal increases in their assets.
Taiwan formally became a member of the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) in 2009. The Public Construction Commission (PCC) publishes all major state procurement projects that require open bidding, in accordance with WTO transparency requirements. In 2008, the PCC submitted to the legislature a bill which would make key changes to the government procurement process which would abolish the current minimum three-bidder requirement for procurement projects, replace the 'minimum bid price' with a 'qualified bid price' to ensure the quality of procurement, and authorize contractors to seek arbitration if the government procurement mediation procedure is not completed within six months due to the fault of the procuring agency. The amendment is still pending in the Legislative Yuan.
Police corruption, while limited, was a problem. The NPA did not keep statistics on police corruption cases. In June 2010 nine ranking police officers in Taipei City were indicted for taking bribes from organized crime figures. The prosecutors recommended sentences ranging from 11 to 20 years in jail. In August the director of a police station in Hualien County was sentenced to 13 years in jail for taking bribes from an illegal gravel business. Another two police officers involved in the case were sentenced to 31 months and 64 months, respectively.
In September 2010 a former police officer in Taipei County was sentenced to 10 and a half years in jail for taking bribes from a human-trafficking ring to extend the residence permits of Vietnamese victims. In October 2009 three police officers in Taipei County were indicted for receiving bribes amounting to NT$23 million (approximately $821,400) from brothels. The prosecutor recommended a prison term of 13 years and six months for the main suspect. At the end of 2010 the trial was ongoing.
The authorities generally investigate allegations of corruption and take action to penalize corrupt officials. From January to November 2010, prosecutors indicted 1,123 persons on various corruption charges, including 68 senior officials (department director level and above) and 33 elected officials.
The Legislative Yuan on January 10, 2011 passed the following additional GPA amendments: (1) Procurements of technology, information, and professional services can be based on quality (i.e. the most advantageous bids), rather than price; (2) A GP data bank containing a list of awarded tenders exceeding NT$10 million (US$350,000) will be established, and; (3) Procurement agencies are required to use model contracts provided by PCC in order to reduce potential disputes.
Taiwan’s government said 17 October 2014 catching companies selling tainted food following the island’s third major cooking oil scandal in a year is now a top priority. The flaps over altered cooking oil have scared consumers who thought Taiwan safe from food scams. The premier of Taiwan ordered government departments to expose what he described as corrupt food manufacturers. As public anger rises over the latest cooking oil scandal, the scale of which is unusual for Taiwan’s modern society, the premier also vowed to pursue any other manufacturers that are tainting or mislabeling food. Taiwan Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said manufacturers involved in the scams cheated to make money. He said price competition is a possible key reason for the problem, and added that big companies lacked the sense of responsibility to purchase quality raw materials from upstream suppliers and knew about problematic oil ingredients early on. He said this is a matter the public cannot accept.
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