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Ma's government cleanup in doubt after Lin bribery case

In a startling about-face, ex-Cabinet Secretary-General Lin Yi-shih (林益世) confessed yesterday to procuring a slag treatment contract for a local businessman in 2010 in exchange for a NT$63 million bribe.

Just days before, Lin had looked into camera lenses and said emphatically — and near-furiously — that he “absolutely had not taken any bribes two years ago.” Lin had called the claim “ridiculous,” and had told reporters that he intends to sue for defamation.

What compounded the irony of yesterday's revelation is that Lin had belonged on President Ma Ying-jeou's Central Integrity Committee of the Executive Yuan (中央廉政委員會). The committee was founded in August 2008 to bulwark the government's defenses against corruption.

It was not the Central Integrity Committee that launched the Lin probe.

Neither was it the Ministry of Justice's (MOJ) Agency Against Corruption (法務部廉政署), which had come into being in July 2011 after the Central Integrity Committee failed to clamp down on a High Court scandal the year before. In 2010, three High Court judges were indicted for accepting some NT$5 million in exchange for clearing former Legislator Ho Chi-hui (何智輝) of corruption.

At the new unit's opening ceremony, Ma promised a renewal of integrity through independent operation. Unlike the Central Integrity Commission, the Agency Against Corruption would not operate directly under the Presidential Office, but would instead work with the MOJ's Investigation Bureau (調查局), Ma said.

But this kind of “independence” has proven glaringly ineffective against top-seated persons: The Agency Against Corruption did not launch the investigation into Lin's case.

Nor did any organ of Taiwan's intricate web of anti-corruption agencies and sub-agencies. Instead, it took a confidential tip-off carried last week in NEXT Magazine, a local weekly tabloid sometimes scorned but often purchased by Taiwanese locals.

NEXT's report triggered not just Lin's probe, but a fresh round of misgivings over how effective Ma has truly been in cleaning up Taiwan's pervasive political corruption.

Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU, 台聯) Legislator Hsu Chun-hsin (許忠信) has underscored the need for a truly independent investigation.

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