Wed, Aug 27, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Foreign banks help out in ‘fraud’ case

‘A FRIEND’ KMT Legislator Alex Tsai accused Huang Jui-ching of opening a bank account using a passport from a third country, but did not name his source

By Jimmy Chuang and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS, WITH AGENCIES

The brother of former first lady Wu Shu-jen, Wu Ching-mao, right, leaves the Supreme Prosecutor Office’s Special Investigation Panel yesterday after being questioned about the alleged money laundering case surrounding former president Chen Shui-bian and his family. He refused to answer questions from the media.

PHOTO: CHANG CHIA-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei has sought the help of international banks as part of its probe into an alleged money-laundering case implicating former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his family, a prosecutor said yesterday.

Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse Group and ABN Amro Holding NV were among the banks that have pledged to assist the investigation, said a prosecutor who declined to be named.

“We are seeking assistance from the banks as witnesses,” the prosecutor said, without elaborating.

Contacted by phone, Merrill Lynch Taiwan branch spokeswoman Vicki Kwong said: “As in normal practice, Merrill Lynch is cooperating with authorities.”

Meanwhile, former first lady Wu Shu-jen’s (吳淑珍) brother, Wu Ching-mao (吳景茂), reported to the Supreme Prosecutor Office’s Special Investigation Panel yesterday for further questioning concerning the allegations against Chen and his family.

Wu Ching-mao arrived at the office at about 2pm and left an hour later without making any comments to reporters.

Prosecutor Chu Chao-liang (朱朝亮) said yesterday morning that prosecutors would soon summon Wu Ching-mao for further questioning in an attempt to clarify unclear money transfers between bank accounts.

“We may consider detaining him if he cannot clearly explain the transactions,” Chu said.

Wu Ching-mao is seen as a key figure in the case as his bank accounts in Singapore were among the principal channels used by Wu Shu-jen to wire money to her son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), and daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching’s (黃睿靚) bank accounts in Switzerland, prosecutors said.

During earlier questioning, Wu Ching-mao failed to provide satisfactory answers regarding money transfers from his Singaporean accounts, prosecutors said.

Chief Prosecutor Ching Chi-jen (慶啟人) of the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office, which is seeking help from Swiss and Singaporean authorities, will leave for Singapore today to ask Singaporean prosecutors to assist her in investigating Wu Ching-mao’s bank accounts.

Ching is scheduled to return on Monday.

She also visited Switzerland earlier this month as part of the investigation.

Earlier yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alex Tsai (蔡正元) accused Huang of having opened a bank account at a Merrill Lynch Bank with a passport from a third country.

“An expert instructed Huang to open her account at a small Merrill Lynch branch in a community in Miami. She opened a trust account with a passport issued by a third country to [avoid triggering alerts of possible money-laundering activity],” Tsai told reporters.

Tsai said he had received this information from “a foreign businessman friend,” but refused to reveal his identity or present evidence to support his claim.

Tsai urged the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) to intervene in the case and help the Special Investigation Panel obtain the information it needs from the bank.

“The FSC and the Ministry of Justice should demand that Merrill Lynch provide details and information on Huang and Chen Chih-chung’s accounts. The FSC should revoke Merrill Lynch’s operating license if the bank refuses to cooperate,” he said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said the ministry had not received any official request for assistance from the authorities to determine whether Huang possessed another passport.

He said that as per Republic of China laws, citizens are permitted to have dual citizenship.

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