Fri, Nov 16, 2012 - Page 1 News List

US seizes houses bought by Chen Shui-bian’s family

Staff writer, with CNA, WASHINGTON

The US Department of Justice on Wednesday said it has confiscated two US properties allegedly purchased with money obtained from bribery by the family of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

The properties — a condominium in Manhattan and a residence in Keswick, Virginia — have a combined value of approximately US$2.1 million and were acquired by Chen’s family through a British Virgin Islands shell company, a statement released by the department said.

The purchases were allegedly made with proceeds from a NT$200 million (US$6 million) bribe accepted by former Taiwanese first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) from Yuanta Securities Investment Trust Co (元大投信) in 2004, the statement said.

The properties were registered under the name of her son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中).

“The former president of Taiwan’s family allegedly accepted millions in bribes in exchange for official action favoring Yuanta Securities, and we have now taken possession of two valuable properties purchased with their alleged spoils,” US Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division said.

According to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, the seizure is part of a continued effort by US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents to identify, locate and seize properties and accounts in the US belonging to Chen Shui-bian and his family.

“HSI will continue to find and seize the US assets of foreign corrupt officials who try to use our country to conceal the illicit proceeds and profits of their crimes,” Morton said.

In Taiwan, Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達), spokesman for the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office’s Special Investigation Division, said the nation has been maintaining judicial cooperation with Washington and will further negotiate with US authorities on matters related to the disposal of the former first family’s assets in the US.

Chen Chih-chung insisted that the two properties were purchased with legally sourced funds and described the US decision to confiscate them as “strange.” Chen Chih-chung said his lawyer is currently helping deal with the case.

The former president has been sentenced to consecutive jail terms of 18-and-a-half years and his wife to 19 years and two months, for accepting bribes, money laundering and influence peddling in connection with a land acquisition scheme, the appointment of a Taipei 101 chairwoman and an exhibition hall construction project.

They were fined a total of NT$314 million for the convictions. The couple has also been accused of taking bribes from several financial holding companies, including Yuanta, to help with the enterprises’ bids to acquire smaller banks. The trial for these allegations is still in progress.

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