Shortly after outgoing president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) handed over the presidency yesterday morning, the Supreme Prosecutors Office declared the former president a defendant in their investigation into Chen’s handling of his “state affairs fund.”
“Prosecutors do not prohibit Chen from leaving the country,” Chu Chao-liang (朱朝亮), a prosecutor with the Supreme Prosecutors Office, told a press conference yesterday.
Chu added that according to Article 26 of the Classified National Security Information Protection Act (國家機密保護法), former presidents must apply with the Presidential Office before they leave the country.
Prosecutors have informed the Presidential Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Immigration Agency, National Police Agency and Coast Guard Administration that they must report to prosecutors if they learn that Chen plans to leave the country, Chu said.
Chu added that prosecutors would soon summon Chen for questioning over the state affairs fund investigation.
Taipei district prosecutors indicted former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) in November 2006 on corruption and forgery charges in connection with the handling of the “state affairs fund.”
The district prosecutors added that outgoing president Chen is also suspected of graft and forgery, but could not be charged because of presidential immunity.
The district prosecutors at the time said Chen would be charged after he left office.
Prosecutors have said that Wu is suspected of pocketing a total of NT$14,800,408 (US$449,600) from the state affairs fund through filing receipts for purchases not related to state affairs.
Wu is suspected of using receipts from a number of people, including her friends Lee Bi-chun (李碧君) and Tsai Mei-li (蔡美利) and members of the first family, to have their personal expenses reimbursed from the fund from July 2002 to March this year, prosecutors said.
During two interviews with prosecutors on Aug. 7 and Oct. 27, the president claimed that the receipts used to claim reimbursements were used to conduct six secret diplomatic missions. But the district prosecutors said they learned that while two of the diplomatic missions were real, the suspects failed to offer any proof that the other four were real.
The Presidential Office said in October that documents detailing the contents of the projects were classified information under the protection of the Classified National Security Information Protection Act and said prosecutors and the court could not see them.
Chu said yesterday that prosecutors had asked the Presidential Office to review the documents.
If prosecutors and the court can use them as legal evidence, it would be helpful, Chu said.
Chen yesterday volunteered as a recycling worker with the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation in Taipei.
Chen said he thought he would be happier as a volunteer than as president.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KO SHU-LING