Investigation chief gave Chen files on transfers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2008, 12:00am

A former Taiwanese investigation chief has admitted giving documents concerning alleged money laundering to ex-president Chen Shui-bian, dealing a fresh blow to the island's scandal-tainted former leader.

In a bid to defend himself, Yeh Sheng-mao - a former director of the island's Investigation Bureau who was accused of covering up the scandal - told a news conference yesterday that he had handed Mr Chen two sensitive documents concerning the case.

'On January 29 this year, an international anti-money-laundering alliance provided information about money transfers by ex-president Chen's family to the Cayman Islands,' Yeh said.

Taiwanese prosecutors are seeking a 21/2-year jail sentence for Yeh after charging him on Thursday with hampering their probes into the snowballing scandal.

'In a meeting with [former] president Chen [in early February], I personally submitted the document along with other attached documents to him. After reading them, he told me he would handle the issue [personally],' Yeh said.

He said he had given Mr Chen a similar document as early as December 2006 containing intelligence provided by the Egmont Group, an informal alliance of financial intelligence-gathering units, regarding alleged money laundering activities through the island of Jersey by Mr Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen.

His admission seemed to indicate Mr Chen was aware of international probes into alleged money laundering by his wife before last year, much earlier than Mr Chen claimed on August 14 when he said that he had only learned of his wife's fund remittance deal earlier this year.

Mr Chen claimed that, without his knowledge, his wife had wired US$21 million abroad. He said the money was left over from previous campaign donations. Money laundering is a crime punishable by up to seven years in jail.

Yeh said yesterday he had informed Prosecutor General Chen Tsung-ming of the Cayman Islands case in early February, and that the prosecutor general had asked him to continue to investigate the case.

He said he later passed the documents to Chen Shui-bian because he was afraid that if the papers were leaked, it would affect the March presidential election and even 'overall national security'.

He said that after Mr Chen admitted on August 14 that his wife had wired the money, he telephoned the ex-president and asked him where the documents were, but was told they could not be found.

At a hastily called news conference, Chen Tsung-ming denied Yeh had informed him or showed him the documents.

'What former director Yeh said was totally baseless,' he said, adding he was willing to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence.

The ex-president's office issued a statement denying Chen Shui-bian had attempted to conceal the documents.