Fri, Nov 08, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Ministry backs up former first lady

PASSPORT REPORT The foreign ministry says Tseng Wen-hui had only one passport at the time she is alleged to have tried to flee Taiwan with US$85m

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday denounced a report alleging that former first lady Tseng Wen-hui (曾文惠) once possessed three passports at the same time, calling the report groundless.

"It's impossible for her to possess three passports at the same time. This allegation is totally wrong," Chan Hsien-ching (詹憲卿), director-general of the ministry's Bureau of Consular Affairs, told the Taipei Times.

The Taiwan High Court yesterday began an investigative hearing into a slander case being contested by Tseng and three New Party members.

In April, Tseng filed an appeal at the Taiwan High Court following a slander case against former New Party legislators Elmer Feng (馮滬祥), Hsieh Chi-ta (謝啟大) and Tai Chi (戴錡), a member of the party's Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission.

The three New Party members filed a lawsuit against Tseng after the 2000 presidential election, accusing her of "trying to flee to New York with US$85 million in cash stuffed into 54 suitcases."

At the original trial, Tseng said she had only one valid passport at the time she was alleged to have tried to fly to New York.

The court asked the bureau for details of all passports Tseng had held.

A report in a Chinese-language newspaper said the court had a written document from the foreign ministry that said Tseng, at the time of the presidential election, held three passports.

Two standard passports were issued on June 21, 1994 and Jan. 4, 1995, the report said. She also possessed a diplomatic passport, which was issued on June 22, 1996, it said.

But according to the bureau files, "She has had four passports in the past. But she hasn't held them concurrently," Chan said.

"According to passport regulations, once a citizen applies for a new passport for whatever reason, one corner on the old one would be cut, rendering it null and void even if its expiry date had not passed," Chan said.

A foreign ministry press release also denied the newspaper report.

The Taiwan High Court is still considering both sides' appeals.

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