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September 20, 2017

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Ex-national fire chief held incommunicado over high risk of flight

The Taipei District Court yesterday ruled to hold incommunicado a former national fire chief who was arrested Wednesday on charges of corruption, as requested by the Taipei District Prosecutors Office.

Prosecutors raised the request against Huang Chi-min, former director general of the National Fire Agency (NFA) under the Ministry of the Interior, after completing interrogations over his alleged practice of benefiting contractors in return for bribes when heading the agency between 2003 and 2009. The prosecutors also questioned a division chief at the NFA and two contractors.

The discrepancies between the statements made by Huang and the other three suspects in the corruption scandals, and the high probability for Huang to collude with the other suspects, prompted the district court to uphold the prosecutors request to hold Huang incommunicado. The other three were released on bail ranging from NT$70,000 to NT$200,000.

Following three years of investigation, the bureau recently dispatched some 160 agents to raid various venues, including Huang s home in Taipei and his office at the Formosa Plastics headquarters, also in Taipei, where he has been working after retirement from the NFA, according to investigation officials.

Investigators seized 18 gold bars, 15 of which weigh 1 kilogram each, from the premises, valued at over NT$23 million in total.

Unusual transactions have also been detected from bank accounts belonging to Huang and his family, including a recent transfer of 200 million Japanese yen abroad.

Offices of companies allegedly involved in the case were also raided.

Investigators noted that Huang was suspected of benefiting companies that won contracts to build the NFA disaster prevention communication systems. The companies were believed to have raked in over NT$100 million in undue profits, judging from the alleged bribes received by Huang.

The probe was triggered by a failure of a NFA communications system during Typhoon Morakot in August 2009. The system failed when President Ma Ying-jeou tried to use it to monitor the typhoon-caused disasters.

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