Tue, Oct 03, 2006 - Page 1 News List

First lady cleared, tycoon Hsu indicted

SOGO SCANDAL Six suspects were indicted in the investigation into a battle for the ownership of Pacific Sogo Department Store, but the first lady was not among them

By Rich Chang and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The first lady was cleared of any wrongdoing yesterday in connection to one of the scandals that have dogged the president and his family.

Taipei prosecutors yesterday completed their investigation into the Sogo voucher scandal and indicted six suspects, including Far Eastern Group chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東). First lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) was cleared of any involvement in the case.

"Prosecutors determined that Pacific Distribution Investment Co chairman Lee Heng-lung (李恆隆) distributed a number of Pacific Sogo Department Store vouchers worth approximately NT$14,820,000 [US$447,320] to various figures, and the first family indirectly received vouchers worth NT$277,000, but that there is no evidence to indicate that Wu received vouchers in return for acting on behalf of certain businessmen who sought to win ownership of Sogo," Taipei District Prosecutors' Office spokesman Lin Jinn-tsun (林錦村) said at a press conference yesterday.

Lin Jinn-tsun said that Wu had received her vouchers from the first family's former doctor, Huang Fang-yen (黃芳彥). Lin Jinn-tsun added that the value of the Sogo vouchers Wu received was too small for them to be considered a bribe.

In addition, Lin Jinn-tsun said that because Wu is not a government official, she cannot be prosecuted under the corruption law in the Criminal Code.

The prosecutor added that a couple of the accused had indicated that Wu was not involved in the Sogo ownership battle.

Meanwhile, former chief of Waterland Financial Holding Co Walter Lin (林華德), Far Eastern Group chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東), Lee and three officials from Lin and Hsu's companies were indicted for forgery and breach of trust.

Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of three years and six months for Walter Lin, and two years and six months for Hsu.

Lin Jinn-tsun said the six were indicted because Hsu, with the help of Walter Lin, Lee and others, forged documents pertaining to his bid for the ownership of Sogo.

Hsu acquired ownership of Sogo in 2004.

Huang -- and through him, Wu -- came under suspicion of meddling in the Sogo ownership battle because he had dinner with the head of My Humble House Group Tsai Chen-yang (蔡辰洋), Walter Lin and Taiwan Financial Asset Services Corp chairman Hung San-hsiung (洪三雄) in September 2002.

In February 2003, Huang dined with Hsu, Lee and Walter Lin.

Lin Jinn-tsun said Huang was not indicted because there was no evidence to indicate that he had been involved in the Sogo ownership battle.

Hsu expressed surprise at his indictment at a press conference last night.

"I was very shocked and I want to protest against the indictment," Hsu said. "I believe justice will prevail and my innocence will be proved."

Hsu also stressed that the day-to-day operations of Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) would not be affected by his indictment.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Office said that it respected the result of the judicial inquiry into the voucher scandal.

"We're happy that the investigation is over because it has helped to clear up the matter," Presidential Office Cho Deputy Secretary-General Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said. "We respect the judicial process and its findings."

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