Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Prosecutors grill Ma over expense fund

A CONCERNED PARTY Investigators quizzed the KMT chairman for four hours over the handling of his mayoral special expense fund following allegations from DPP lawmakers

By Rich Chang and Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei prosecutors said yesterday that they had not decided whether Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was guilty of any wrongdoing after questioning him for four hours over alleged misuse of his special expense fund.

"Ma was questioned [yesterday] as a concerned party, and his status remains that of a concerned party following the interview," Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office spokesman Chang Wen-cheng (張文政) told a press conference.

Chang said Ma, interviewed from 8:50am to 12:50pm, detailed his handling of his special allowance fund during his time in office.

Ma cooperated fully with the investigation, Chang added.

Chang said it was too early to say whether Ma was guilty of anything and whether he would be charged.

"Prosecutors need time to look at Ma's statement and compare it with the evidence gathered," Chang said, adding that Ma offered prosecutors a number of documents related to his usage of the special allowance.

Chang said Prosecutor Hou Kuan-jen (侯寬仁), who is from the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office Black Gold Investigation Center and in charge of the investigation, had questioned more than 10 Taipei City officials who were responsible for handling Ma's special allowance before talking to Ma.

Other Black Gold Investigation Center prosecutors, including Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁), who indicted first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) on corruption and forgery charges in connection with the handling of the "state affairs fund," joined the Ma investigation to avoid controversy different investigation standards from those used during the first family's investigation, Chang added.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓) and several of her colleagues filed a lawsuit with the Black Gold Investigation Center on Aug. 4 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).

DPP lawmakers accused Ma of spending 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, or NT$170,000, alleging that he deposits the funds into his personal account every month.

Ma has admitted using money from the fund to adopt his dog but said that the bill came to only NT$9,900 and that he had repaid that amount.

After being questioned, Ma said he had always run his administration according to the law, but declined to reveal the content of the questioning.

"I have adhered to the law and separated my public and private interests," Ma said.

While declining to comment on his conversation with the prosecutors, Ma insisted he had explained the matter in detail, and believed that the prosecutors would make their judgment in accordance with the law.

In response to questions from reporters about including money left in the fund in his declaration of property, Ma said he did so according to the Act on Property Declarations by Public Servants (公職人員財產申報法), which states that public servants should declare their property regardless of the sources of the money.

Ma said that he spent half of the monthly NT$340,000 fund, which requires receipts, on gifts for weddings, funerals and rewards for his employees.

The other half of the fund, which did not require receipts, went into his personal account.

He dismissed speculation that there was any discrepancy between the total of his receipts and the actual expenditure.

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