Taiwan leader sues radio host over illicit donations claim

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou will file a lawsuit against a radio host for alleging that he accepted political donations from a company implicated in food safety scandals, his office said on Thursday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou will file a lawsuit against a radio host for alleging that he accepted political donations from a company implicated in food safety scandals, his office said on Thursday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou will file a lawsuit against a radio host for alleging that he accepted political donations from a company implicated in food safety scandals, his office said on Thursday.

Ms Clara Chou accused Mr Ma of accepting under-the-table funds to act as the "guardian" of food giant Ting Hsin, which has faced widespread public outrage and an island-wide boycott of its products following the scandals.

Mr Ma firmly rejected the allegation, stressing that his government has fully investigated the company's alleged involvement in the scandals and indicted 57 people so far.

"President Ma has always highly respected the freedom of speech but despite the presidential office's repeat clarifications, Ms Chou continues to spread false rumours to seriously affect his reputation," his office said in a statement.

Mr Ma has decided to take legal action to "defend his innocence and maintain the reputation of the head of state", it added.

Separately, Taiwanese prosecutors on Thursday said they will look into Ms Chou's claims against the president before deciding on whether to launch a formal investigation.

Ting Hsin, which owns the instant noodle brand Master Kong that is popular in Taiwan and China, has been implicated in three food safety scandals since late 2013.

In the latest case that surfaced in October, its subsidiary Ting Hsin Oil was accused of selling oil intended for animal food, which is banned for human use, as regular lard and cooking oil.

That claim led to hundreds of tonnes of products being pulled from shop shelves.

Ting Hsin pledged to donate T$3 billion (S$125 million) to a food safety fund after the scandals triggered public outrage.