Wu trial, Day 1: I just gathered receipts for fund

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Mar 18, 2009 - Page 1

On the first day of her trial, former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) yesterday denied embezzlement, but admitted to temporarily keeping some of the presidential “state affairs fund” at the Presidential Residence.

During the trial, which began at 2:30pm, Wu and Chen Chen-hui (陳鎮慧), the former president’s bookkeeper, were questioned and cross-examined by the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Asked by Chen’s lawyer if she had examined books kept by Chen, Wu said that Chen would give her a monthly record, but “I just took a look at it and put it in a drawer. When the next month’s [books] came, I shredded the previous month’s [books].”

Wu said she helped Chen store some money from the “state affairs fund” on the top shelf of a safe at the Presidential Residence, but denied embezzling it.

“Chen Chen-hui would give me [the money] and tell me there’s not enough room [in the safe for government funds]. So I put it in the safe at home. But I would always hand the money over to the president [Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁)],” she said.

Prosecutors allege that more than NT$27 million (US$788,000) was withdrawn from the fund by using “inappropriate receipts” to claim reimbursements. Wu denied that any of the money was used for the former first family’s personal expenses.

Later, “[then-Presidential Office deputy secretary-general] Ma Yung-cheng [馬永成] told Chen Chen-hui that the rules changed ... Now we have to use receipts to claim reimbursements,” Wu said.

Wu said she only knew that the fund was for the president’s use, but was unaware that her husband had secret diplomatic projects.

“I played a very simple role. I just gathered receipts,” she said.

When the “state affairs fund” scandal broke, Wu, Chen Shui-bian, Ma, former director of Chen Shui-bian’s office Lin Teh-hsun (林德訓) and others held a meeting, with Ma suggesting that Chen Shui-bian take the blame for using inappropriate receipts, Wu said.

“But I was the one who gathered the receipts,” she said.

At a previous hearing, Wu admitted to wiring money to offshore accounts. Yesterday she told Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) she did so to reduce taxes.

Chen Chen-hui later took the stand and contradicted some of Wu’s testimony.

“[Wu Shu-jen] told me to bring the state affairs fund home [to the Presidential Residence]. I asked Ma and he okayed it,” she said.

When Wu’s lawyer asked about her job duties, Chen Chen-hui said: “I was in charge of keeping the state affairs fund, but all the reimbursements had to be signed by [Ma].”

Yesterday’s proceedings ended at about 6pm. Wu, Ma and Lin are scheduled to appear in court again tomorrow.

Also See: Former presidential aides again deny wrongdoing