Sat, Aug 05, 2006 - Page 3 News List

First lady's friend barred from leaving the country

SCANDAL Prosecutors are taking no chances on a close friend of first lady Wu Shu-jen disappearing while they investigate her involvement in alleged fake expenditure claims

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lee Bi-chun (李碧君), a key figure in the embezzlement allegations surrounding the first family, has been banned from leaving the country, a prosecutor said yesterday.

"Lee will be subpoenaed later, and the order restricting her from leaving the country is a measure to make sure future investigations proceed smoothly," said Eric Chen (陳瑞仁), a prosecutor at the Black Gold Investigation Center of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) has accused first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) of pocketing cash through reimbursements from fake expenditures, using receipts provided by Lee, a close friend of the first lady.

Chiu Yi said that some of the receipts Lee Bi-chun gave to Wu were from Lee Bi-chun's cousin, Ligi Lee (李慧芬), a Taiwanese fashion designer based in Australia, saying that the receipts were issued by the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei.

The Chinese-language newspaper the United Daily News yesterday reported that Ligi Lee planned to return to Taiwan from Australia next week with documents proving that she had offered some receipts to Lee Bi-chun and the first lady.

"I will hold a press conference to declare that I have offered receipts for more than NT$7 million (US$213,000) to be reimbursed from the fund," the newspaper quoted Ligi Lee as saying.

Chen yesterday said that prosecutors would interview Ligi Lee if she were to return to the country.

Apart from the receipts from the Hyatt, Chiu also claimed that Lee Bi-chun had provided some receipts that had been issued by the Ambassador Hotel and Sogo Department Store, among others.

Ministry of Audit Spokesman Wang Yung-hsing (王永興) said the ministry had found that some copies of the receipts Chiu submitted to the ministry had been used to reimburse expenditures from the fund, and the ministry had sent these documents to the prosecutors.

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