Fri, Sep 08, 2006 - Page 1 News List

First couple questioned over slush fund

COOPERATIVE The prosecutors' office spokesman said that the president and the first lady declined to call their lawyers and gave clear answers during the interrogation

By Jimmy Chuang and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office yesterday said that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) had been questioned as "key figures" in an investigation into alleged irregularities relating to the use of a special state affairs fund.

Chang Wen-cheng (張文政), spokesman for the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office, confirmed yesterday that the president was interrogated on Aug. 7 at the Presidential Office and Wu was questioned on Aug. 20 at the official Yushan Residence (玉山官邸) .

"[Chen and Wu] were not accompanied by their lawyers, although we clearly told them they had the right to do so," Chang said at a press conference yesterday morning.

Prosecutors also informed the couple that the case under investigation "will very likely become one in which suspects could be charged with forgery or graft," and asked the two if they would like to have their lawyers with them. However, both parties replied that they saw "no need" to call their lawyers, he said.

Chang stressed that both the president and the first lady remain "legal parties" in the case and have not been enlisted as defendants, and that the prosecutors were obligated, in compliance with Article 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedures (刑事訴訟法), to tell any individual being questioned that he or she has the right to call a lawyer if there is a chance that the person might become a defendant in the case.

Chang said he could not confirm whether prosecutors would summon the president and the first lady again in the near future because of a gag order.

Both Chen and Wu clearly answered every question posed by the prosecutors, Chang said, adding that the president also provided some evidence in his defense.

Prosecutors will review and investigate the evidence provided by the president, Chang said.

The Presidential Office also confirmed that the president and his wife were questioned by prosecutors but dismissed the allegation that they refused to cooperate.

"We have submitted to prosecutors all the original receipts of the president's special allowance fund dating back to May 2000," Presidential Office spokesman David Lee (李南陽) said.

Lee said the president had made it clear on July 31 that he would be happy to personally explain his special allowance fund to prosecutors and investigators in a bid to help establish the truth.

When asked why they did not disclose the couple's meetings with prosecutors earlier, Lee said they were not in a position to offer details of a legal case and that the media should ask prosecutors for comment on the matter.

The Presidential Office issued a statement at 12:13am yesterday, telling the media that Chen did explain the matter to prosecutors at the Presidential Office on Aug. 7.

"The president stressed that he never pocketed the funds and that he respects the judicial investigation and will offer his full cooperation," the statement said.

The statement was made in response to a report published in Tuesday's edition of the Chinese-language China Times claiming that the investigation into the allowance fund hit a snag as the Presidential Office refused to provide receipts and documents.

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