Evergreen Marine denies bribing ex-LA Port Commissioner

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Friday August 25, 2006

Taipei- Taiwan's Evergreen Marine Corp. on Friday denied allegations that it bribed a former Los Angeles Port Commissioner to win more space at the Port of Los Angeles. In a statement, Evergreen said that it would fully cooperate with US judicial investigation into the case, although Evergreen believes it is innocent.

"We paid Leland Wong 5,000 US dollars per month from 2002-2004 as a consultancy fee, so he he could help us obtain more space for containers at the LA Port," the statement said.

"When we retained his service as our consultant, Wong was no longer the Port Commissioner, so we had every rightful reasons to hire him," it added.

The allegations against Wong surfaced during a probe into corruption scandals in the administration of former LA Mayor James Hahn, following allegations that Hahn supporters shook down companies seeking business opportunities by trading contracts for political contributions.

Hahn, who lost re-election bid last year, has not been implicated and has denied knowledge of any wrongdoing.

Wong, 49, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court to charges of taking 100,000 US dollars bribes from Evergreen Marine in 2002 while he was a Port Commissioner.

Wong was released on his own recognizance. He could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted on the charges of corruption, embezzlement, filing false tax returns and perjury.

Launched with only one bulk carrier in 1968 by Taiwan tycoon Chang Jung-fa, Evergreen Marine has grown into one of the leading container shipping lines in the world with 120 container ships.

The Taipei-based Evergreen Group also operates the Eva Airways and owns a chain of hotels operating in many countries.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur