11 suspects detained in New Taipei police bribery case

Eleven suspects have been ordered by the New Taipei District Court to be detained and held incommunicado in a case in which people in the car rental and vehicle inspection business allegedly bribed police officers to get cars with suspended license plates back on the road more quickly.

Four police officers, six agents who help arrange vehicle inspections, and one vehicle inspector were detained Wednesday on suspicion of bribery and forgery, while three other officers were released on bail of between NT$50,000 (US$1,677) and NT$100,000, according to the New Taipei City Prosecutors Office.

Similar investigations are underway in Taoyuan and Hsinchu County.

In the case, New Taipei City police were tipped off last year about a large number of incidents in which cars with suspended license plates were being fined for traffic violations, resulting in the license plates being revoked.

Upon investigating, they discovered that car rental companies and agents who help arrange vehicle inspections had been paying bribes to New Taipei police officers and vehicle inspectors for help in exploiting a loophole in the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act.

The scheme mainly involved instances where a person had used a rental car to drive recklessly, resulting in its license plates being suspended for six months and causing the company to lose out on rental income.

In these cases, prosecutors said, the companies and agents would take the car back on the road and bribe police to issue them a traffic violation, in order to have the car's already-suspended license plates revoked.

Then, after paying a small NT$3,600 fine, they could apply to have new plates issued and get the car back on the road, rather than waiting out the full six-month suspension.

The scheme rested on provisions in Article 12 of the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act, which state that car owners who drive with suspended license plates will have their plates revoked, and must pay a fine of NT$3,600-NT$10,800.

The article also mandates that the car be confiscated at the scene, but says it can be claimed by the owner "after a prescribed period of time."

In response to the news, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said Thursday that it had already closed the loophole that was allegedly exploited by the suspects.

For any vehicle whose license plate is ordered to be revoked, any previous license plate suspension period must be completed before the car's plates can be revoked and reissued, it said, citing an order it issued to motor vehicles offices in March.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel