Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 3 News List

`State affairs fund' prosecutor denies political meddling

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The prosecutor in charge of a probe into alleged misuse of a special "state affairs fund" earmarked for President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) discretionary use denied yesterday that he had ever advocated resolving the current political turmoil by recalling President Chen.

Eric Chen (陳瑞仁), a prosecutor with the anti-corruption center under the Taiwan High Prosecutor's Office, made the comments after an article carried in the latest issue of Next Magazine claimed that he backs an opposition-initiated motion to recall President Chen over corruption allegations.

Affirming his belief in the importance of "judicial neutrality," Eric Chen said in a written statement that he has never expressed any opinion on political issues in his capacity as a prosecutor.

"Any political comments attributed to me by any media outlet are not true," he contended.

He further said Next Magazine's report about his questioning of former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) as a witness in connection with the probe into President Chen's alleged misuse of the "state affairs fund" was factually incorrect.

Eric Chen said the magazine never interviewed him nor approached him to verify key points of his talks with Lee before publishing the article.

Opposition politicians have accused President Chen of using "false invoices" to reimburse his state affairs expenses after the Ministry of Audit (MOA) under the Control Yuan found some irregularities in the Presidential Office's financial accounts.

The MOA referred the case to the Taiwan High Prosecutor's Office in late June for further investigation.

So far, only the owner of a pharmaceutical company has been listed as a suspect in the case.

President Chen has denied pocketing reimbursements from the state affairs fund, but has admitted that he directed the use of "other people's" invoices for clandestine diplomacy.

A senior prosecution source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed on Wednesday that Eric Chen questioned former President Lee on Sept. 15 about the use of the "state affairs fund" during his presidency from 1988 through 2000.

According to the source, Lee's testimony was helpful in clarifying some facts.

The questioning centered on two themes -- similarities and differences in the former and incumbent presidents' use of the state affairs fund and the methods for their execution of clandestine diplomacy, the source said.

Lee was quoted as having confirmed that one clandestine diplomatic mission executed by President Chen indeed originated during Lee's tenure. As to other secret diplomatic missions mentioned by Chen, Lee said he had no knowledge after he left office in May 2000.

Lee also told Eric Chen that during his presidency, clandestine diplomatic missions were mainly financed by two expense funds in the National Security Bureau's budget.

As a result, Lee claimed that he didn't use his special "state affairs fund" for clandestine diplomacy.

Eric Chen questioned President Chen on Aug. 7 about reimbursement under the state affairs fund as "a key figure related to" the investigation into the case.

During questioning, President Chen confessed to having directed the use of "other people's" invoices for reimbursement, but claimed that the expenditure was completely for diplomatic matters.

According to existing regulations, half of the state affairs fund may be kept for confidential use and authorized with official signatures, but reimbursement of the remaining half requires invoices or sales receipts.

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