Ma Ying-jeou, leader of Taiwan's main opposition party, has resigned from his post as chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) after being indicted on corruption charges.
At a press conference to announce his resignation he protested his innocence and declared he'd run in the 2008 Taiwan leadership election if selected as the KMT candidate.
A KMT regulation stipulates that the chairman of the party must resign from the post if prosecuted regardless of whether or not they're found guilty. Ma could to return to his post if acquitted.
Prosecutors say Ma diverted 11 million New Taiwan dollars (US$333,000) from Taipei's special allowance funds to his private account when he was mayor. Prosecutors didn't say what jail term they would seek but have indicated they'd suggest Ma be given a light sentence if found guilty.
The Clean Government Committee, which operates under the KMT, published an investigation report after Ma's indictment was announced. They argued that the funds deposited in Ma's personal account had all been used for public welfare services.
The report said Ma donated a total of 68.09 million New Taiwan dollars (US$2.06 million) to public undertakings during his tenure as Taipei mayor. This was far more than the special allowances deposited in his private account.
It's in keeping with the policy of the Taiwan authorities to put part of the special allowances into a private account, the report said.
Taiwan prosecutors also indicted Yu Wen, former secretary of the Taipei mayor's office, on charges of forgery. Indictments against five others involved in the case have been temporarily postponed, say prosecutors.
In August 2006 some Democratic Progressive Party members had accused Ma of misusing special allowance funds while he was mayor of Taipei. This led to the investigation.
The funds are allocated by the authorities to executive officers at various levels. Official receipts are required for only half of the funds while the remainder only needs the signature of the official.
Ma said earlier he would resign his post as KMT chairman if he was indicted. However, the Kuomintang has rejected his resignation and asked him to reconsider.
In trying to persuade Ma to remain the KMT has contravened its own regulations which stipulate that the party chairman is required to resign if prosecuted regardless of whether they're found guilty or not.
(Xinhua News Agency February 14, 2007)