A former Taiwanese deputy science minister has been indicted on corruption charges for allegedly collaborating with a private company to gain windfall profits in a construction project, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Hsieh Ching-chih, former deputy chief of the cabinet-level National Science Council, was accused of helping his friend Hsu Hung-chang win a contract for a construction project in an industrial park in southern Tainan county to reduce vibration from the bullet train affecting the complex.
Prosecutors sought a 15-year jail term and a 30-million-dollar fine for Hsieh and a 12-year imprisonment and a 500-million-dollar fine for Hsu, who was charged with violation of company law.
Hsu was also asked to return the 3.4 billion Taiwan dollars (104 million US) of illegal profit.
Eight others were also indicted for graft and bribery in the case, including another council official and the seven members of the project's evaluation committee.
Hsu's company won the bidding for the eight-billion-dollar project in 2002 and later contracted other firms to carry out the construction, which cost him 4.6 billion dollars.
However, the project, aimed at reducing the impact of the high-speed bullet train when it passes by the industrial park occupied mainly by high-tech companies, was criticized as ineffective.
The transportation ministry over the weekend approved the island's first bullet train rail link despite safety concerns.
The Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation (THSRC) said partial service was expected to begin next month.
THSRC had originally hoped that commercial operations of the 345-kilometre system could begin in October 2005, a date that was delayed because of safety considerations.
The bullet train can reach speeds of 300 kilometers per hour and a non-stop trip from Taipei to southern major city of Kaohsiung will take 90 minutes. It is designed to transport 100 million passengers a year.