Fri, Jun 23, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Legislator accuses Chen of using Sogo vouchers

SHOPPING DEBATE The KMT's Sun Ta-chien demanded the president explain the source of vouchers he has distributed as prizes at year-end banquets in recent years

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The scandal involving allegations that first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) accepted gift vouchers from a department store spread to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday, with an opposition legislator claiming the president used the vouchers in 2003.

"The president provided NT$60,000 [in vouchers] as a prize at a 2003 year-end banquet held for employees working in the Yushan [Presidential] Residence," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) said.

The first lady was previously accused of intervening in the transfer of ownership of the Pacific Sogo Department Store and improperly accepting Sogo gift vouchers.

The allegations against Wu have been denied by the president, who said he would resign if any member of the first family had improperly accepted vouchers.

In his televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, Chen reiterated that his wife had never directly accepted Sogo gift vouchers from Pacific Distribution Investment Co chairman Lee Heng-lung (李恆隆), former chief of the Pacific Group Chang Min-chiang (章民強), Far Eastern Group chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) or former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan (陳哲男).

Sun yesterday showed a chart which claimed the president, Wu and Lee Bi-chun (李碧君), who is one of Wu's close friends, all contributed Sogo vouchers as prizes at the banquet.

"According to my informant, Huang Fang-yen (黃芳彥), the first family's doctor, also contributed Sogo vouchers for the banquet," Sun said.

Lee Bi-chun was previously accused by KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) of helping Wu resell Sogo vouchers to seven women. Chiu accused Huang of delivering Sogo vouchers to the first lady.

"The Presidential Office responded to the allegations against the first lady by saying the Sogo vouchers were bought by the first lady and her friends in 2004. But the banquet was in 2003. Where did the Sogo vouchers come from?" Sun said.

Sun said the president and the first lady had in total contributed Sogo vouchers amounting to NT$480,000 as year-end banquet prizes from 2003 to this year.

The Presidential Office issued a statement yesterday afternoon in response to Sun's allegataions.

Sun's allegations were "completely remote from the facts," the statement said.

The statement said the president and first lady had in 2003 conformed to the requests of employees at the official residence to substitute vouchers and cash for some of the prizes so that the winners could purchase items that they wanted.

The vouchers were legally purchased from various department stores, the statement said, adding that those who were ignorant of the true picture should not make any unfounded charges.

The statement said that this year's vouchers, for example, were purchased from the Shin Kong Department Store.

Vouchers for the previous three years were purchased from Shing Kong Department Store, the Breeze Center and Sogo Department Store, it said.

The statement said the Presidential Office respected the ongoing judicial investigation into the Sogo voucher controversy and hoped the truth of the matter would soon be learned.

"We hope those who do not know what happened refrain from making groundless allegations or insinuations so they will not break any law or confuse the public with misleading information," the statement said.

Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling

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