Taiwan president's confidant grilled on corruption claims

TAIPEI (AFP) - A Taiwanese politician known for her close ties with the president has been interrogated for allegedly taking bribes, prosecutors said on Thursday, in the latest graft scandal to hit the island.

Lai Su-ju, a member of the Taipei City Council, was questioned on suspicion of soliciting and accepting money from a company in a massive construction project in the capital, said the Taipei district prosecutor's office.

The United Evening News reported that Lai allegedly solicited NT$10 million (S$420,000) to help facilitate the project worth NT$70 billion while prosecutors declined to give out specifics.

Lai has maintained her innocence.

Lai, 49, a rising star in the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party led by President Ma Ying-jeou, formally served as the party's spokeswoman and currently runs Ma's office in the KMT.

As a lawyer, Lai has represented the president and other top politicians in several high-profile court cases in recent years.

She became the second KMT politician with close links to the president to be implicated in corruption scandals, after former party vice chairman and cabinet secretary-general Lin Yi-shih was indicted on graft charges in October.

Lin, also seen as a confidant of Mr Ma, resigned from the cabinet last year after he was accused of taking NT$60 million in bribes from a businessman in exchange for several contracts with a state firm.

Observers said Lin's case dealt a heavy blow to Mr Ma, who was re-elected for a second and final four-year term last year pledging to fight corruption.

Taiwan has been rocked by a string of corruption cases involving top officials in recent years, including ex-president Chen Shui-bian who is currently serving a 20-year jail term on multiple graft convictions.

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