Who would have known that "Reimbursement-gate" would have such legs?
What began as just another serving in a daily diet of dubious charges from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator and top-heavy muckabout Chiu Yi (邱毅) has ballooned into a legal case that threatens the presidentissimo himself.
But last week, the KMT had a stone hurled right through its glass house. Prosecutors, perhaps in need of work for bored junior staff members, questioned Taiwan's No. 1 hair gel consumer and the Great Blue Hope himself -- KMT Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
Pan-green legislators have for months whined that Ma improperly spent public mayoral funds on his dog, Ma Hsiao-jeou (
Then (say it ain't so, Mr Mayor) one of his staffers admitted to submitting unrelated receipts instead of the real ones, just to make the accounting easier.
And there are even reports that funds may have been spent -- presumably by his mayorship's family members -- on "feminine hygiene products." Can one say "Padgate"?
Well, well, well. Turns out quite a few of the nation's politicians have a big ol' pile of dodgy receipts stashed away in their closets.
But don't think we here at Newswatch are rubbing our hands together gleefully, happy to see the pan-blue camp get its comeuppance.
No, there are far higher stakes at play here.
As it turns out, Chen and Ma's slush fund shenanigans are only the tip of the iceberg. A probe by Newswatch hangers-on has uncovered even more shocking abuses of special funds.
You'd better be sitting down.
* Honorary KMT Chairman Lien Chan (
Okay, so technically Lien has been dipping into the KMT's dwindling war chest, not public funds. But given the party's time-honored tradition of looting state coffers, what's the difference? Last year alone, Newswatch has discovered, Lien spent his "special fund" from the KMT on the following:
1) NT$340 on the classic work The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Traitors, purchased at Eslite on April 25, before the chairman's first China tour;
2) NT$280 on Ding Gua Gua fried chicken for his son, Lien Sheng-wen (
3) NT$95.3 million to complete construction, which began in March 2004, of a mock-up "Presidential Office," complete with fawning staff and high-tech situation room, deep within the bowels of the KMT's old Renai Road headquarters.
* Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (
Oh, Jimmy boy, what a disappointment. All the spending from his special fund was for legitimate diplomatic purposes -- Huang's pretty boring. But it reflects judgment on the part of the nation's top diplomat that's spotty, at best:
1) NT$600 on 15 tubes of Heiren ("black person") toothpaste, to be presented as gifts to a delegation from Swaziland as a sign of Taiwan's appreciation of the contributions of diverse ethnic groups;
2) NT$120 on a pirated copy of The Da Vinci Code in a last-minute effort to understand the Catholic faith ahead of a meeting later that day with the Holy See's Taiwan envoy, Ambrose Madtha;
3) NT$300 million on small arms and bullets for delivery to a Middle Eastern contact codenamed Luowang of Arabia in September last year -- in exchange for a 30-minute visit and photo op for the president in a Middle Eastern country that cannot be named for reasons of national security (okay, okay, it was the United Arab Emirates).
* Ma Hsiao-jeou
Everyone's pointing the finger at the owner -- but what about the dog? Newswatch followed the money, and uncovered a damning portrait of a conniving canine bent on personal gain on the taxpayer's dime.
1) NT$1,000 for a Burberry dog jacket to lift Ma Hsiao-jeou's fashion profile during his outings about town;
2) NT$73,000 for dog cologne, accessories and high-end treats from the Paw-risian bistro's Web site;
3) NT$313,412 in false receipts that had nothing to do with the mayor or his dog's expenses. Newswatch has learned that the reimbursed funds actually paid for repeated trips over a six-month period last year by Ma Hsiao-jeou to a hush-hush la gou dian (
* Dr Johnny Neihu IV
Finally, in the interests of full disclosure and after consultation with my Cayman Islands-based legal staff, the following is my personal confession of possible misuse of my own special Taipei Times slush fund. Half of the fund is, by law, secret, and its specific use on sensitive journalistic matters is known only to me and three professionals in the Linsen N Road area, who shall from hereon be called Xiao H, Xiao I and Xiao J (also referred to affectionately as "Jujulicious").
But, I admit, the other half is a confusing tangle of bogus, often crumpled-beyond-recognition receipts, technically legal but morally questionable expenses, and outright pilfering from this good newspaper's funds for private gain. Unfortunately, the secret half of my budget was not sufficient to cover some emergency expenses related to "situations" that arose in the course of my research. Those expenses included:
1) NT$83,416 on Godiva chocolates for my gal and love of my life Cathy Pacific, after her discovery of a text message from Xiao J on my cellphone (consulted on the sly while I was playing mahjong in the next room) containing certain anatomical suggestions.
2) NT$65,000 on a Louis Vuitton bag for Xiao H after I mistakenly addressed her by Xiao J's name during a sensitive moment in our professional collaboration.
3) NT$704,600 reimbursed with a receipt for Cathy's annual membership fee at a Beitou (
With this accounting I put myself in the capable hands of the nation's judiciary, and throw myself upon my readers' mercy.
Heard or read something particularly objectionable about Taiwan? Johnny wants to know: firstname.lastname@example.org is the place to reach me, with "Dear Johnny" in the subject line.
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