SID placed on the chopping block

Lawmakers on Wednesday passed the first review of a bill that would scrap Article 63, Item 1 of the Organic Act of Courts (法院組織法), the legal basis of SID.

If approved by a general session, the investigation unit would be abolished on Jan. 1, 2017.

The bill that passed Wednesday also included amendments that allow district courts and district prosecutors’ offices to apply for professional experts from related government agencies to assist investigations.

These courts and their prosecutors may only apply if handling major corruption cases, economic crimes or cases that have caused “severe social disorder,” according to the revisions.

Despite opposition from the minority Kuomintang, committee convener Yu Mei-nu of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) concluded that the bill had been approved.

The bill next proceeds into cross-party negotiations; if approved, it will be submitted to the general assembly for review.

Eliminating SID would improve the capabilities of district prosecutors for handling investigations on cases like major corruption scandals, according to a press statement released by the Justice Ministry on Wednesday.

In the statement, the ministry said it had been deliberating on measures to prepare itself for SID’s abolition.

As of August, SID was working on three cases, the statement read.

DPP lawmakers who backed abolition have said that SID’s handling of cases on many occasions drew criticism for being political partial or politically motivated.

Controversy stirred by the investigation unit has created public distrust in Taiwan’s prosecution system, according to lawmakers.

SID Chief ‘respects legislative decision’

Speaking to the lawmakers, Supreme Prosecutors Office (SPO) Prosecutor-General Yen Da-ho said he respected their decision on the investigation agency.

Also speaking at the Legislative Yuan, Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san expressed support for the abolition of the agency.

The two officials would be directly affected by the bill if it takes effect.

Yen said he was concerned about whether prosecutors or legal officials could avoid political pressure or benefits once SID’s operations were incorporated into the Taipei District Prosecutors Office, according to local media.

Yen said that under such circumstances, it would largely depend on whether the person in question could face such pressure.

He reiterated that SID had not abused its power when handling certain investigations, stressing that it was not appropriate to abolish SID “in the short term.”

But Yen said that the fate of SID over the long term was at the discretion of lawmakers, and that he would respect whatever conclusion they reached.

SID Director Kuo Wen-tung told reporters that the investigation agency would continue to carry out investigations to “the very last minute and second.”

SID was established by the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration in 2007 to probe corruption cases involving government officials, but critics say that it has since become a tool for politicians to pursue their own agendas.