Chinese Nationalist Party Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) yesterday claimed that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) son Chen Chih-chung (陳致中) and daughter Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤) own secret accounts with the Bank of America, but confusion about the Romanization of their names cast doubt on the validity of his claim.
Chiu told a press conference that according to the account details provided by his secret contact in the US, the first son owned about NT$540 million (US$16 million) in savings, while the first daughter had about NT$600 million transferred into her account on Sept. 23 alone.
To back his claim, Chiu called up the bank's customer service system and keyed in the said account numbers during the press conference. However, he only passed the first screening procedure because he did not have the account owners' social security number.
But Chiu said that passing the first screening procedure proved that the accounts did exist.
In papers shown by Chiu at the press conference, part of the account numbers were covered to protect people's privacy, he said.
SET-TV aired a clip yesterday afternoon claiming it had obtained the numbers, but that they came out blank when they tried to key them into the bank's system.
A different clip aired by CTI-TV claimed that the set of account numbers were valid when it tried the same procedure.
Both TV stations did not show the alleged account numbers.
According to documents provided by Chiu, the names of the accounts were spelt in pseudo Hanyu pinyin as "Zhi Zhong Chen" and "Xin Yu Chen."
The spelling of the names drew questions as Wade Giles is the commonly used Romanization system on Taiwanese passports.
In response, Chiu said he suspected that the first children use both Romanization systems on their passports and urged the Presidential Office to make copies of their passports public.
He also suspected that the first son withdrew most of the money after finding that Chiu was on his tail as the balance in the "Chen Zhi-zhong" account suddenly decreased to NT$29 million on Monday.
Chiu said his charges were believable because his contact, a bank staff, has been with the president's son after the first son went to New York on Oct 24. Chiu added that he obtained the documents "at a price."
Chiu said that if the Presidential Office refused to clarify the matter, he would reveal other secret bank accounts jointly owned by two persons named "Zhi Zhong Chen" and "Chen Huang Rui-jing" (corresponding to the name of the president's daughter-in-law).
But Chiu refused to elaborate on the information, saying he was afraid this might make his investigation more difficult because his contact might charge him more after realizing the value of those documents.
Chiu also failed to explain why the account of "Chen Zhi-zhong" contains a checking account originally reserved for immigrants to the US from Latin America, but he told the press that application requirements for such a checking account in the US have been loosened.
In response to Chiu's accusation, the Presidential Office issued a brief statement yesterday saying that the office would not respond to rumors.
Chen Chih-chung and Chen Hsing-yu issued a statement late last night denying Chiu's accusations, saying they would file suit against him for slander.
Stating that Chiu's accusations were groundless, the statement said Chen Hsing-yu had never opened a bank account or bought any property in the US.