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Spokesman dismisses critique of Jiang

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Executive Yuan went on the defensive Saturday, seven days after former Taoyuan County Deputy Magistrate Yeh Shih-wen was detained on corruption charges.

A spokesman for the Cabinet rebutted reports that Premier Jiang Yi-huah had been irresolute in dealing with Yeh, who Jiang noted had “integrity problems” when he was head of the interior ministry's Construction and Planning Agency (CPA), long before the scandal came to light last Saturday.

Spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said Jiang had learned in April last year that Yeh may have been involved in irregularities and decided to remove him from his post at the CPA to “avoid undermining public interests.”

Sun said the premier asked then-Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan to make “adjustments” to Yeh's position immediately, but he did not tell Lee the reason behind the instructions because of a request by the Ministry of Justice to keep a low profile so as not to affect the investigation into Yeh.

Yeh entered an early retirement from civil service on June 3, 2013.

Sun said that the premier's decision was based on a report from the justice ministry's Agency against Corruption, and not on information from Samuel Yin, the chairman of Ruentex Financial Group, as media reports have said.

It was during Jiang's term as interior minister (2009-2012) that he reportedly first learned of Yeh's questionable activities, amid accusations that Yeh was wheeling and dealing and pressured subordinates to foot bills for entertaining and other expenses.

Jiang asked the ministry's ethics department to verify the accusations, but no definitive evidence was found, according to Sun.

Jiang later met with Yeh in May and June of 2011 to advise him to keep his distance from business interests and avoid mingling with business leaders as a public servant, Sun said.

After taking up the premiership in February last year, Jiang instructed the Agency against Corruption to conduct ethics probes on all political appointees and ranking officials, resulting in a report two months later that Yeh was involved in soliciting bribes but no solid evidence, Sun said.

The premier's orders to remove Yeh were based on that report, Sun explained.

Yeh, who was appointed deputy magistrate of Taoyuan County a month after being forced to retire, is currently in detention amid allegations that he received a bribe this past April to help a real estate developer secure a project to build a low-price housing complex in the northern county.

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