Tue, Nov 14, 2006 - Page 2 News List

MOTC embroiled in first family row

CONTROVERSY A wedding gift to the president's son has given rise to questions about the qualifications of a member of the China Aviation Development Foundation

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has become embroiled in the controversy surrounding the first family, with prosecutors investigating claims that Charles Chen (陳致遠), an executive director in the China Aviation Development Foundation, may have obtained his position at the foundation because of generous gifts his siblings had bestowed on members of the first family.

The MOTC is the largest shareholder in the foundation, which in turn owns a majority of the shares in China Airlines.

Regulations stipulate that the MOTC minister should also act as the foundation's chairman.

Wan Hai Lines chairman Chen Bo-ting (陳柏廷) is alleged to have given President Chen Shui-bian's son Chen Chi-chung (陳致中) a watch decorated with diamonds and valued at NT$1.05 million (US$32,000) as a wedding gift.

There have also been reports that Chen Bo-ting, a younger brother of Charles Chen, might have provided the first lady with Sogo Department Store vouchers which she had allegedly used to partially pay for the purchase of a diamond ring from Tiffany & Co.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Tsai Duei (蔡堆) yesterday appeared flabbergasted when questioned by lawmakers at the Legislative Transportation Committee over Charles Chen's qualifications.

"Wan Hai owns just 2 percent of China Airlines' stock, so how did he [Charles Chen] manage to become a board member of the foundation?" People First Party (PFP) Legislator Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) asked.

"Apparently the watch [given to Chen Chi-chung] makes all the difference," Liu said.

He asked Tsai to replace Charles Chen immediately.

According to the foundation's regulations, investors are not restricted to airline operators.

Corporations with capital exceeding NT$10 million and an annual sales volume exceeding NT$25 million may also invest in the foundation.

PFP Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said that China Airlines had sold transferable bonds worth NT$2.7 billion to Wan Hai.

He suggested that Tsai should convene a board meeting to discuss Charles Chen's qualifications.

"You need to consider why and how the two former MOTC ministers [Lin Ling-san (林陵三) and Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪)] stepped down, and stop siding with the first family," Lee told Tsai.

China Airlines yesterday issued a statement saying that Charles Chen became a board member in the company in 2000, and was reaffirmed as board member in 2003.

The statement added that he did not hold an important position within Wan Hai, which has been buying the company's stocks and transferable bonds since 2004.

Charles Chen was recommended in May this year to serve on the foundation's board after Wan Hai became the second-largest shareholder in the company, the statement said.

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