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Influence-peddling merry-go-round continues to spin

Ker Chien-ming, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus whip for 17 years, was convicted more than four years ago by the Taipei District Court on charges of breach of trust while serving as general manager of Formosa TV, which had yet to go on the air. He was acquitted by the Taiwan High Court, but wished that the high public prosecutor in charge wouldn't appeal the acquittal, because he would have had his party membership stripped if the Supreme Court had ordered a retrial at the appellate court where he might have been convicted. Should that have happened, he would have been ousted from the Legislative Yuan.

So, Ker asked his good friend Wang Jin-pyng, the Kuomintang president of the Legislative Yuan, or parliamentary speaker, to talk to Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu to help get him off the hook. Tseng talked to Chen Shou-huang, prosecutor-in-chief at the Taiwan High Public Prosecutors Office. Then, Chen talked with Lin Shu-tao, the prosecutor in charge, and Lin didn't appeal. Ker was absolved.

That was what Procurator-General Huang Shih-ming's Special Investigation Division learned in legal wiretappings related to a separate case of influence-peddling, in which Ker was suspected of lobbying for a prisoner's parole. That case was dropped, but Huang went to see President Ma Ying-jeou to report on Tseng's involvement in the influence peddling scandal before its investigation was completed. Tseng was forced to resign and referred to the Control Yuan for impeachment, while Ma attempted to remove Wang as parliamentary speaker, kicking off the “September Strife.” The Kuomintang attempted to oust Wang, but he secured a temporary injunction from a district court to stay on.

There's no law to call lawmakers to account for influence-peddling, but the Legislative Yuan has a bylaw forbidding them from influencing court judgments in continuing investigations or trials. The Legislative Yuan has a Disciplinary Committee to find out if there are any acts of influence-peddling, and in the event that there are, to mete out punishment. The heaviest potential punishment is a three-month suspension of the offending legislator's job. Usually, an offender must apologize or is just reprimanded.

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