Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 1 News List

First lady quizzed, investigators say

SOGO SCANDAL Prosecutors held a press conference yesterday to confirm that they had questioned the first lady at National Taiwan University Hospital on Sunday

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei prosecutors confirmed yesterday that they had questioned first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) over her alleged involvement in the so-called Sogo voucher scandal.

Wu's interview marked the first time in the country's history that a president's wife has been subpoenaed by prosecutors.

"Prosecutors questioned Wu on Sunday afternoon. Out of respect for her health and personal dignity, Wu was questioned at an office in National Taiwan University Hospital, instead of at the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office," Taipei District Prosecutors' Office spokesman Lin Pang-liang (林邦樑) said yesterday at a press conference.

The press conference was an apparent reaction to a report published by the United Evening News yesterday that said Wu had been questioned by prosecutors on Sunday at the presidential mansion, Yushan Residence, on Taipei's Chongqing S. Road.

Prosecutors wanted to know if Wu had received a number of Pacific Sogo Department Store vouchers and if she had, from who, Lin said.

Lin said the first lady had cooperated fully. He however declined to say whether prosecutors had found anything suspicious about Wu's alleged role in the Pacific Sogo Department Store's ownership war.

The interview lasted about three hours and Wu was not accompanied by a bodyguard, Lin said.

Prosecutors suspect that the first family's doctor, Huang Fang-yen (黃芳彥), may have accepted a large number of Pacific Sogo gift vouchers on Wu's behalf.

Huang was questioned by prosecutors last week. The gift vouchers he is said to have accepted were allegedly worth around NT$6 million (US$185,000).

Huang and Wu have been accused of acting on behalf of certain businessmen who sought to win ownership of Sogo. Huang allegedly discussed the matter over dinner with the head of My Humble House Group Tsai Chen-yang (蔡辰洋), the former chief of Waterland Financial Holding Co Walter Lin (林華德) and Taiwan Financial Asset Services Corp chairman Hung San-hsiung (洪三雄) in September 2002.

In February 2003, Huang is said to have dined with Far Eastern Group chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東), Pacific Distribution Investment Co chairman Lee Heng-lung (李恆隆), Walter Lin, and former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan (陳哲男).

Hsu acquired ownership of Sogo in 2004.

The allegations against Wu have been denied by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who said he would resign if any member of the first family was found to have improperly accepted vouchers.

In his televised address to the nation late last month, Chen reiterated that his wife had never "directly" accepted Sogo gift vouchers from Lee, head of the Pacific Group Chang Min-chiang (章民強) or Hsu.

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