Tue, Apr 03, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Ma says indictment no bar to presidential campaign

By Flora Wang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is expected to appear in court today for alleged misuse of his special allowance fund during his time as Taipei mayor, said yesterday that his indictment should not be a problem for his presidential bid because he is innocent until proven guilty after three trials.

"We all know that, in terms of the Criminal Procedure Law (刑事訴訟法), a defendant is innocent until ruled guilty after three trials. So I am still innocent and there should be no problem for me to run for presidency," Ma said during an interview with the China Television Co (CTV) yesterday morning.

Ma, who said on Sunday that he would stay in the race even though he might be found guilty in the first trial, said he is not as confident as he used to be of the judiciary.

"I believe the judiciary is very important and I respect it, but my faith in it has been shaken because of a series of recent actions by the judiciary, particularly after I read my indictment and because of the recent controversy about the relocation of several prosecutors-general," he said.

Ma said he had not taken a lawyer with him when he answered the prosecutors' first summons because he believed he had been called as a concerned party, not a defendant.

Prosecutors only asked for his opinions about "the nature of the special allowance fund" instead of giving him a chance to explain that the nature of the fund and how he "subjectively used the money" were different, he said.

He said he did not understand why he was indicted because he was just following what the city government's treasurers and accountants had told him to do.

Ma said he thinks someone has tried to sabotage him by having him indicted. He said he had consulted his lawyers about how to prove his innocence in court today.

As to whether he approved of the KMT's bid to modify its "Black Gold Exclusion Clause" -- which prohibits members who have been indicted from joining the party's primary -- Ma said his case and the reason for the clause were "very different situations."

He said it would be inappropriate for the KMT to tailor party regulations for him.

Ma was indicted for corruption on Feb. 13 on charges that he had embezzled NT$11 million (US$332,400).

Prosecutors alleged that between December 1998 and last July, Ma wired half of his monthly special mayoral allowance -- NT$170,000 -- into a personal account.

They also claimed that Ma has NT$11,176,227 in bank accounts belonging to him and his wife.

Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office spokesman Chang Wen-cheng (張文政) said that while Ma's monthly salary as mayor was about NT$150,000, Ma had deposited NT$200,000 a month into his wife Chow Mei-chin's (周美青) bank account.

Prosecutors have said that Ma included the money in his mandatory annual declaration of assets, but that he had failed to explain what legal basis he had for keeping public funds in a personal bank account.

Ma was criticized over his interview by the pan-green camp.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun called him a "hypocrite," saying that Ma had a double standard when it came to his behavior and that of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

"How can a dishonest and corrupt person be Taiwan's president?" Yu said.

Former premier and DPP presidential hopeful Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said Ma had created a dilemma by proclaiming he would still seek the presidency even if he were convicted in a first trial.

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