Mon, Aug 14, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Ma mum on KMT debt under Lee

MONEY MATTERS Ma Ying-jeou said the KMT would detail its handling of assets this month, while Lee Teng-hui denied the party had been heavily in debt during his term

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday declined to address a media report that said the party had carried NT$50 billion (US$1.53 billion) in debt during the chairmanship of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), leaving the question to be answered later this month.

As part of the events celebrating the one-year anniversary of Ma's inauguration next week, the KMT will present a special report on Aug. 23 on the total value of its assets and how they have been handled under different chairmen dating back to the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) period.

According to a story in the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday, the KMT once carried as much as NT$50 billion in debt because of improper investments made when Lee served as party chairman from 1988 to 2000.

Lee responds

At a gathering with the press yesterday in Kaohsiung, Lee denied the report's claim.

Lee said the KMT was in its heyday and was at its richest when he was chairman.

"I ordered that all the party's assets be compiled and found that the KMT had a total of about NT$100 billion in assets," Lee said in response to press queries.

Ma declined to comment on the matter, but promised yesterday that the KMT would outline to the public its party asset issue in details in two weeks.

KMT Deputy Secretary-General Chang Che-chen (張哲琛) and Lee Yung-ran (李永然), a lawyer who has been hired by the party to deal with the issue, will explain the KMT's handling of its assets in both legal and practical terms, Ma said.

The KMT amassed a vast empire of banks, investment companies, petrochemical firms and media outlets during its autocratic rule.

Amid accusations that the party acquired its assets illegally, the KMT has sold many of them, while former party chairman Lien Chan (連戰) promised to return stolen assets to the government.

The party stepped up divestment of assets under Ma's leadership to ease its growing financial burden, selling three media outlets last December and its old headquarters in March.

In response to the government's demand for the party to return the assets, Ma said that it would only return "illegally acquired" assets and hasn't returned any assets to the government in the wake of the recent sales.

In other developments, Ma yesterday lashed out at President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) speech on Saturday, urging Chen to stop "shifting the focus" again by questioning Ma's national identity and proposing to change the name of CKS International Airport.

"Will people stop thinking that he is not corrupt if he changes the airport's name and criticize Ma Ying-jeou?" Ma said.

Chen on Saturday spoke of how the issue of a "Taiwanese identity" had created numerous political conflicts and that many in Taiwan held unrealistic fantasies about China. He also suggested that CKS airport be called Taipei Airport.

"President Chen is good at tossing out new topics, but it's useless to shift the focus now and make people believe that he is innocent and clean," Ma said.

Ho Min-hao (何敏豪), executive director of the Taiwan Solidarity Union's (TSU) policy committee, on the other hand, lauded Chen's promise to kick off a national campaign to "rectify the national title and introduce a new constitution for Taiwan" -- a promise Chen has made many times but on which he has consistently failed to act.

Ho said he hoped this time the president meant what he said.

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