Mon, Jul 24, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Chiu Yi says Australia will vindicate his allegations

SCANDAL?The KMT legislator is sticking by his claims that the first lady used fake receipts to cover up alleged embezzling from the Presidential Office's secret slush fund

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

An opposition legislator yesterday outlined a complex conspiracy involving the first lady, a fashion designer and the Grand Hotel, saying the Australian government would investigate the matter and prove fraudulent expenses had been recorded by the Presidential Office.

"This might become a diplomatic incident between the two countries," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) told reporters.

Chiu Yi claims that first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) used receipts she obtained issued by the Grand Hotel to Ligi Lee (李慧芬) -- an Australia-based fashion designer -- to mask her embezzlement of funds from the Presidential Office's special expenditure budget.

Chiu Yi said Ligi Lee had said the receipts totalled NT$3.36 million (US$102,220), and were given to Wu because Ligi Lee's cousin, Lee Bi-chun (李碧君), told her that the first lady needed them.

In a brief statement, the Presidential Office denied the accusation, saying only that the receipts were submitted by "a person" who acted as a "go-between" for the nation's de facto diplomatic mission in Australia, who received the receipts from Lee Bi-chun to seek reimbursement from the office.

The statement said that the "go-between" had been commissioned as part of an operation it called the "South Route Project," but it provided no details as to what the project was.

Chiu Yi said he doubted the authenticity of such a project, saying that it was merely a fiction made up by Tseng Tien-tsu (曾天賜), the Presidential Office's former bureau chief.

Because of the Presidential Office's claims, Chiu Yi said, the Australian government was now set to investigate whether officials had accepted money from the office.

Chiu Yi said that Ross Maddock, secretary-general of the Australia-Taiwan Business Council, initially planned to come to Taiwan with Ligi Lee's ex-husband Chiu Ta-wei (邱達偉), but had canceled his trip for fear of being investigated by the Canberra government.

Meanwhile, Chiu Ta-wei returned to Taipei from Australia yesterday.

When confronted by reporters at CKS International Airport yesterday afternoon, Chiu Ta-wei said that he didn't know anything about what Chiu Yi and Ligi Lee had said.

"This is my country. I came back because I had to," he said when reporters asked him why he had returned.

Chiu Yi told the press on Saturday that Chiu Da-wei was returning at Tseng's request.

"Tseng asked Chiu Ta-wei to come back to Taiwan to explain to the media that he had been under orders to carry out the so-called `South Route Project.' And he [Chiu Ta-wei] will take the responsibility on himself for [Lee Bi-chun's] receipt matter," Chiu Yi said.

Chiu Yi quoted Ligi Lee as saying that she knew about her ex-husband's trip because a travel agency had mistakenly faxed his itinerary to her.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said that the ministry didn't have any information about an investigation by Australia into the "South Route Project," saying he hadn't had a chance to check with the Canberra government as of last night.

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