DPP couple in hara-kiri vow after fraud claim

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2007, 12:00am

Two prominent members of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party have offered to perform hara-kiri, the Japanese ritual suicide of disembowelment, if they are found to have embezzled money from a local bank.

DPP legislator Hsueh Ling and her husband, Chen Shen-hung, a member of the party's central standing committee and chairman of Sunny Bank, swore before reporters in Taipei yesterday that they had not taken so much as a nickel from the bank.

'If Sunny Bank's Chen Shen-hung has embezzled a nickel, he will perform hara-kiri. If Sunny Bank lost a nickel, I will accompany him to do the same,' Hsueh vowed.

Her comments were made soon after the pair were released on NT$10 million (HK$2.38 million) bail each on embezzlement charges.

Chen gave a similar undertaking, saying he would perform hara-kiri if he had stolen any money from Sunny Bank.

They were arrested after a raid on Hsueh's office in the Taiwanese legislature on Tuesday.

Prosecutors investigating alleged illegal loans said they suspected the couple had arranged loans to swindle the bank out of at least NT$500 million.

Prosecutors said Hsueh Ling's brother, Hsueh Tsung-hsien, who was taken into custody last month, had played an important role in the scandal.

Miao Zhou-ran, spokesman for the Shihlin District Prosecutors Office, said the brother had bought a building for about NT$400 million, but had raised the contract price to NT$500 million.

Hsueh Tsung-hsien then mortgaged the contract to obtain a NT$500 million loan from the bank.

Mr Miao said the couple allegedly collaborated with two other bank officials to grant the loan to Hsueh's brother, resulting in a loss to the bank.

He said prosecutors were investigating other irregular loans implicating the two and the total amount could exceed NT$500 million.

The couple have denied any wrongdoing.

Sunny Bank said the two did not have any outstanding debts and had repaid their loans long ago.

The bank reported an 'unusual withdrawal' of more than NT$3.5 billion by jittery customers following reports of the scandal.

But the bank insisted clients had nothing to worry about and that there was no imminent liquidity risk, given its sound financial condition.

Statistics released by the bank showed that it had a bad loan ratio of 2.7 per cent and a coverage ratio of 44 per cent.

According to the Taipei Times, Hsueh Ling was chairwoman of Sunny Bank in 2004 before her husband, then a DPP legislator, took over the position.