Chen says US$1.9m sent to US for diplomatic missions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 October, 2008, 12:00am

Former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian told his wife to send almost US$2 million in an unfrozen account in Singapore to a Democratic Progressive Party bigwig for diplomatic missions, Mr Chen told a court yesterday.

The latest confession in Taipei District Court came after he admitted on August 14 that his wife wired US$21 million abroad without his knowledge. That account was frozen by Swiss authorities as part of a money-laundering investigation.

It has caught supporters and the DPP by surprise, as they thought the US$21 million was the only funds that Mr Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, had kept.

Judges raised the issue of the Singapore account yesterday during a cross-examination as part of their investigation into the possible money-laundering.

Speaking to reporters shortly after the court session, Mr Chen said his wife admitted in January she still had US$1.91 million in an ABN Amro Bank account in Singapore in the name of her brother, Wu Ching-mao. She had earlier told her husband she had wired US$21 million abroad, with those funds having been frozen by Swiss authorities.

Mr Chen said his wife explained to him that she had kept the funds abroad so that he could continue to promote Taiwan's diplomatic and public affairs after he retired.

'Then I asked her to donate the rest of the unfrozen funds, about US$2 million, to finance diplomatic and public affairs, though at that time I had not yet retired,' he said.

He said the unfrozen funds had been transferred to four bank accounts set up in the United States by a prominent DPP member in February, and he believed that person - known for his efforts in promoting Taiwan's sovereignty - had made effective use of the funds in his work. Mr Chen would not name the person.

Lawyer Chuang Hsiu-ming said the so-called donation was actually Mr Chen's strategy to justify his wife's transfer of the US$21 million. 'Chen Shui-bian tried to tell us the funds remitted abroad were for use in diplomatic and public affairs,' he said.

The confirmation of the US$1.91 million account came after authorities in Singapore agreed to reveal the details about three bank accounts set up by Wu Ching-mao and Mr Chen's daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching.

During cross-examination, Judge Lee Ying-hao asked Mr Chen why someone had remitted close to US$2 million to the United States from Wu Ching-mao's account in Singapore shortly after Swiss authorities had frozen the US$21 million.

Mr Chen hesitated for a moment, and then said he made the decision to transfer the money for 'diplomatic and public affairs use'. Asked why his wife had to wire the money abroad and did not keep it in Taiwan if she really intended to help promote Taiwan's diplomatic work, Mr Chen said it was his wife's decision, which had nothing to do with him.

Mr Chen was also asked whether he had received money-laundering investigation reports from former Investigation Bureau director Yeh Sheng-mao in 2006 and early this year. Mr Chen replied that he had to read thousands of intelligence reports a day and he knew nothing about the investigation made by an international anti-money laundering group against his wife in 2006, but remembered he had read briefly about a report by the Swiss judicial authorities.

Such information, he said, was among thousands of reports sent to his desk, and after checking with his wife, who did not tell him the truth, he decided it was just a piece of inaccurate information fed by the Investigation Bureau, so he ignored it.

Yeh, detained for concealing the investigation documents and leaking information to Mr Chen, said he gave the documents to Mr Chen, who told him he would handle the case. Mr Chen has denied Yeh's claim.