Chen's family agrees to transfer US$21m

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 November, 2008, 12:00am

The family of detained former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian agreed yesterday to transfer US$21 million of allegedly laundered money from its frozen account in the Cayman Islands back to Taiwan.

In the latest development of the high-profile corruption scandal, Mr Chen's son, Chen Chih-chung, and daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching, had signed a letter of authorisation for the return of the funds, a spokesman said.

'With the approval of Wu Shu-chen [Chen Shui-bian's wife], they agreed to transfer the funds to a bank account designated by the Supreme Prosecutors' Office,' said Chen Yun-nan, spokesman for a special investigation taskforce.

The family are the prime suspects in the laundering case, and the agreement came after taskforce prosecutors questioned the young couple at their Taipei home in the morning. Wu, who also lives there, had given approval for the couple to sign the letter, the spokesman said.

The funds were kept in three Swiss bank accounts opened in the Caymans by the son and daughter-in-law. Detecting unusual fund flows, Swiss judicial authorities asked Taiwan in July to provide information about the couple's employment status and the total income of the Chen family.

They also sought help from Singapore on how the funds - originally kept in Swiss and US bank accounts in the city state - had been wired to the Caymans. The Swiss authorities froze the funds, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The taskforce spokesman said the couple insisted they had opened the accounts strictly at Wu's instruction and knew nothing about the nature of the funds.

He said with the authorisation letter, Taiwanese prosecutors would deal with Swiss authorities over how the money would be returned.

But for the funds to be confiscated and sent to the island's coffers, Chen Yun-nan said, prosecutors had to prove that it was laundered money from illegal sources.

Asked if the Chen family had other US and Japanese bank accounts, Chen Yun-nan said the taskforce had no information about the family's bank accounts in Japan, and it had no evidence showing the family had used its bank accounts in the US for any wrongdoing.

The former president and his wife have also been listed as prime suspects in a NT$400 million (HK$93 million) bribe-taking scandal. Prosecutors have also listed the former leader as a major suspect in a NT$14.8 million embezzlement case, in which his wife has already been indicted and is being tried for allegedly using receipts provided by others to account for secret state funds between 2000 and this year while her husband was president.

Kuomintang legislator Chiu Yi said with the young couple agreeing to return the fund, it was likely the taskforce would not charge them with money laundering.