Mon, Oct 02, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Chen investigation to wrap up this month

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Prosecutors yesterday said the investigation into embezzlement allegations in which the first family has been implicated should be completed by the end of the month.

"The investigation will be finished and made public this month, and I will put my name on the investigation report to show that I am responsible for it," Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office told the Taipei Times yesterday.

Eric Chen declined to comment on whether or not President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was a suspect in the investigation, saying prosecutors would make public everything they have learned in the official investigation report.

The president enjoys immunity to criminal prosecution while he is in office and prosecutors could not indict the president even if they discovered evidence of his guilt.

But the investigation report is certain to be closely scrutinized by the president's supporters and opponents, given the current political divide and ongoing calls for Chen Shui-bian to resign.

The prosecutor said he had not revealed any of the details of the investigation to the public, and that he believed media reports about the embezzlement investigation published in local Chinese-language newspapers were mere guesswork by reporters.

Eric Chen said prosecutors have interviewed a number of people in an effort to learn why their receipts had been used to claim reimbursements from a secret special state affairs fund.

Opposition lawmakers have accused first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) of pocketing cash from a Presidential Office expense fund by seeking reimbursement for fake expenditures, using receipts provided by a number of individuals.

The president was questioned at the Presidential Office on Aug. 7 in connection with the investigation, and Wu was questioned at the official Yushan Residence on Aug. 20 about alleged irregularities in the use of the fund.

Prosecutors told a press conference after those interviews that Chen had said some of the receipts in question had been submitted by his wife, but he said that the reimbursements were for secret diplomatic expenses, and neither he nor his wife had ever pocketed any of the money.

During the first session with the president, prosecutors told Chen that the questioning might result in charges of forgery or corruption.

Because of the recent wave of anti-Chen Shui-bian protests, politicians from across the political spectrum, such as former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), have called on prosecutors to speed up the pace of their investigation.

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