Sat, Nov 04, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Presidential Office in crisis: Prosecutors might be `confused,' Cho Jung-tai says

IT'S GOING TO BE FINE The Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General suggested that the first lady's indictment might be a misunderstanding

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH STAFF WRITER

The Presidential Office yesterday tried to pre-empt news of the indictment of the first lady by holding an unscheduled press conference, claiming that prosecutors might be confused because the president couldn't reveal "secret" information related to the case.

Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) couldn't fully explain to prosecutors how he had spent the "state affairs fund" -- a discretionary budget with loose oversight -- on certain things in connection with "sensitive" business concerning the nation's interests.

Cho made the remarks at an informal press conference he called at 11:40am yesterday.

Last-minute

As rumors started to spread around noon that prosecutors were preparing to wrap up their investigation into Chen's alleged embezzlement from the fund, Cho called a last-minute press conference, indicating that he may have been aware that the first lady would be indicted, even before prosecutors officially announced the indictment at 4pm.

As of press time, the Presidential Office had made no further comments about the indictment.

Cho said that the Presidential Office hoped that prosecutors would not misunderstand the president's situation, because he couldn't reveal "extremely confidential" things to them.

Cho restated Chen's previous statement that the president never stole from the state fund, saying that the entire fund was used for public affairs.

Chen last month survived a second parliamentary vote aimed at ousting him after the opposition failed to garner enough support.

The first recall motion to drive him out of office failed to pass the legislature in June.

According to a story by the Central News Agency, Cho said the main part of the state fund was spent on six major projects.

Expenditure

The president spent NT$35 million on "lobbying," NT$6.6 million on "supporting democratic activities," NT$2.5 million on "the nation's efforts to join the UN," NT$3.2 million on "supporting human-rights activities," and NT$10 million on "expanding the nation's international space."

The amount used for these six projects in 2003 and 2004 was NT$59.3million, Cho added.

When asked why he had called a press conference, Cho said he had no specific reason, but said that the Presidential Office had recently finished sorting out relevant receipts.

In a related development, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) yesterday called off a planned visit to Penghu and returned to Taipei.

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