No corruption on my watch: Chen

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2006, 12:00am

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has taken his domestic problems abroad by declaring in the South Pacific island nation of Palau that he is innocent of corruption.

'All the money has been spent on government jobs and not a single cent has been put into my pockets,' Mr Chen said.

He has been under relentless pressure to resign due to corruption allegations tied to his family and government. He is also under investigation over the alleged embezzlement of NT$36 million (HK$8.5 million) in state funds.

Mr Chen made the declaration at a news conference yesterday in Palau for Taiwanese journalists accompanying him on his visit to two of the island's South Pacific allies - Palau and Nauru.

The president said he respected the judicial authorities' handling of the case and would co-operate fully.

He said the state funds were divided into secret diplomatic funding and special funding, and were part of the president's annual budgeted spending. When there was not enough funding for secret diplomatic missions, he had to draw money from the special pool, which required receipts.

Mr Chen also rejected opposition allegations that his wife, Wu Shu-chen, accepted NT$5 million in department store gift vouchers in exchange for lobbying favours.

He said the vouchers were given as birthday or holiday gifts to his family by his family doctor, Huang Fang-yen, who obtained the certificates from a friend in the department store who was also his patient.

Mr Chen said his wife had been investigated by judicial authorities over her alleged role in the scandal and he believed her name would be cleared after the investigation.

The gift voucher case is one of a string of corruption scandals that prompted opposition lawmakers in June to initiate a recall motion in the legislature to try to unseat Mr Chen.

Mr Chen, whose approval rating has plummeted to about 10 per cent, survived the legislative vote, but calls for him to resign have grown louder.

Even Shih Ming-teh, a former chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, has started a campaign to rally 1 million people to depose him.

Mr Chen, however, said he was confident he would stay on to complete the rest of his four-year term, which will end in May 2008.