Thu, Jan 22, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Chen Shui-bian relatives plead guilty

‘VERY SORRY’ A contrite Chen Chih-chung said that if investigators determined that her money was not acquired illegally, his mother would donate it to charity

STAFF WRITER, WITH AGENCIES

Chen Chih-chung, right, son of former president Chen Shui-bian, looks on as his wife, Huang Jui-ching, sobs after leaving the Taipei District Court yesterday. The couple apologized to the public after alluding to their involvement in alleged money laundering.

PHOTO: CHIEN JUNG-FONG, TAIPEI TIMES

Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching (黃睿靚), and former first lady Wu Shu-jen’s (吳淑珍) brother, Wu Ching-mao (吳景茂), told a judge during a pre-trial hearing at the Taipei District Court yesterday that they might have been involved in money laundering.

A judge has to accept a statement before it can constitute a formal plea, a court spokesman said.

“I didn’t differentiate clearly between laundering money and handling funds,” Chen Chih-chung told reporters in the lobby of the court building after the two-hour hearing.

Standing next to his wife, who choked back tears, he said: “If it could be done all over, we absolutely would not make the same kind of mistake again.”

“I am very sorry about the whole thing. My wife and I will do whatever we can to help prosecutors clarify the details of the case,” Chen Chih-chung told reporters.

Chen Shui-bian and Wu Shu-jen were indicted last month on charges of embezzling NT$104 million (US$3 million) from a special presidential fund.

They are also accused of accepting NT$100 million in bribes and US$6 million in connection with a land procurement deal, as well as US$2.73 million in kickbacks to help a contractor win the tender for a government construction project.

Chen Chih-chung and Huang were indicted for money laundering in connection with the moving of money overseas.

Chen Shui-bian has denied the accusations, but has admitted sending the money overseas, saying it was leftover campaign contributions.

On Monday, the former president pleaded not guilty to charges of receiving bribes.

During the hearing, Chen Chih-chung told judges that prosecutors already knew about his bank accounts in Switzerland and the US, adding that he did not have any bank accounts in Japan or in any other country.

Chen Chih-chung also promised judges he would sign all related agreements and authorization forms regarding the money — NT$700 million — which is still frozen in his Swiss bank accounts and for a separate amount of NT$570 million in another foreign account.

The Special Investigation Panel said the couple identified the flow of NT$570 million in a deposition on Dec. 18, but had only agreed to have it returned to Taiwan recently.

Prosecutors believe the funds, which have not been frozen by Swiss authorities, may be kickbacks from Taiwanese businesses for preferential treatment.

Also yesterday, the Taipei District Court subpoenaed Wu Shu-jen to appear on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11 to begin a series of pretrial hearings related to the cases.

“I will make sure to help [my mother] attend any hearings,” Chen Chih-chung said.

He told judges that Wu Shu-jen possesses a large quantity of jewels worth at least NT$600 million.

The jewels are in the care of a friend of Wu Shu-jen’s in Japan, he said.

“These jewels will be shipped back to Taiwan as soon as possible,” he said.

Chen Chih-chung said that Wu Shu-jen would donate all the money to charity if investigations proved the money was clean.

“We apologize to the public. My mother also told me to inform your honors that she will try to attend every hearing,” Chen Chih-chung said in court.

ADITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY CHUANG

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