Mon, Nov 13, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Prosecutors to question Ma about fund

IN THE DOGHOUSE A group of DPP lawmakers filed a lawsuit against Taipei's mayor in August in connection with his adoption of a dog, accusing him of misappropriating funds

By Rich Chang and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTERS , WITH AFP

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will be questioned tomorrow over the alleged misuse of the mayor's special expense fund, in a new twist to the scandals plaguing the nation's political system.

Ma yesterday confirmed reports that he would be "interviewed" by a prosecutor after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators demanded a probe into what they said was Ma's embezzlement of his monthly "special expenses" for public affairs.

"Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁) with the Black Gold Investigation Center of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office will question Ma as a witness on Tuesday [tomorrow]," Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office spokesman Chang Wen-cheng (張文政) told the Taipei Times yesterday.

DPP Legislator Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) and several colleagues filed a lawsuit with the Black Gold Investigation Center on Aug. 2 accusing Ma of using his special allowance fund to pay for a physical exam and fees to adopt a dog known as Ma Hsiao-jeou (馬小九).

Ma said yesterday that he believed in judicial system and would cooperate with the investigation.

"I will cooperate with the investigation. Explaining the matter to the prosecutors should be helpful to clarify the issue," Ma said while attending a ceremony in honor of Sun Yat-sen's (孫逸仙) birthday at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.

Ma said that he has explained the matter before, and so did the Audit Ministry, so the investigation should find him innocent.

When asked to comment on concerns that he could be disqualified from the 2008 presidential race if he is prosecuted, Ma said he had never heard of such concerns and he would not worry about it.

KMT regulations state that a person's membership would be canceled they are prosecuted.

While stressing that Ma has been following legal procedures in the handling of his special allowance fund, KMT Spokesman Huang Yu-cheng (黃玉振) called on the DPP not to try and shift the focus away from the president's alleged involvement in the misuse of the Presidential Office's special allowance fund.

"The president's special allowance fund is different from a local chief's special allowance fund. The Audit Ministry has already said that there's nothing wrong with Chairman Ma's fund ? The DPP is trying to shift the focus by stigmatizing Ma," he said.

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) urged the DPP not to shift the focus, adding that his party had heard about other cases that the pan-green camp would use to prevent Ma from running in the 2008 election.

"But the PFP will not get involved in such a battle. We insist that such incidents should not shift the focus, which is for the president to step down," he said.

DPP lawmakers have said Ma spent NT$79,700 (US$2,430) from the special allowance on his dog. They also accused him of embezzling half of his special monthly mayoral allowance of NT$170,000, alleging that he deposits the funds into his personal account every month.

DPP Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chia-chin (徐佳青) filed a lawsuit in September claiming that Ma's bank account has increased by more than NT$1.06 million over the past seven years because he funneled half his monthly special allowance fund into his personal account.

Prosecutors said after they questioned a number of Taipei officials handling the mayor's special allowance, they decided to interview the mayor.

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