Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) office yesterday threatened to take legal action against political commentator Sisy Chen (陳文茜) if she failed to produce evidence to back her claim that the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) suspected the former president had smuggled US dollars overseas.
The former president’s office issued a statement dismissing the allegation made by Sisy Chen and challenged her to offer a clear account of who at the SIP told her that Chen Shui-bian had secretly shipped US dollars abroad and when the source made this claim.
The statement said all expenses related to the former president’s state visits were arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and there were records of the money, including how and where the money was spent.
“The allegation has no basis in truth and makes no sense at all,” the statement said. “The former president has never taken advantage of his state visits to smuggle private money overseas.”
Sisy Chen wrote in her column in Saturday’s edition of the Chinese-language Apple Daily that the former president insisted on conducting a state visit abroad at the height of a corruption scandal in 2006 and now the SIP suspected that he had smuggled US dollars abroad.
Sisy Chen said in the story, whose headline read “Turn the ugly page,” that the former president benefited financially from the “second financial reform,” in which local banks were encouraged to merge to expand their market shares. She also said he handpicked three younger up-and-coming party members to run for top jobs in Taipei County, Taichung City and Kaohsiung City.
All of them lost because of complications caused by a riot staged by foreign laborers working on the construction of Kaohsiung City’s mass rapid transit system, she said.
The former president’s wife, on the other hand, was hiding a vast amount of money, Sisy Chen said, adding that a caller to a TV program had informed her that the former first lady put the money in Cathay United Bank.
In addition to requesting that Sisy Chen prove her claims, the office asked the SIP to clarify whether it had leaked the information on an ongoing case.
The office did not want to see media outlets break the law or commit human rights violations, the statement said.
Meanwhile, the former president yesterday began to eat solid food.
After agreeing to drink some liquid drawn from boiled rice on last Wednesday, the former president began to eat congee on Friday.
He has been detained without charge since Nov. 12 and had refused to eat since Nov. 13 in protest at what he called “political persecution.”
He is suspected of money laundering, accepting bribes, forgery and embezzling NT$15 million (US$448,000) during his presidency.
The former president has accused the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration of waging a “political vendetta” against him to curry favor with China.
The former president’s lawyer, Cheng Wen-long (鄭文龍), told reporters after visiting his client at the Taipei Detention Center yesterday afternoon that his client has resumed eating and his health has gradually improved.
Cheng said he would request that the detention center provide his client with newspapers, which is a privilege detainees are usually denied.
Cheng said that his client has finished writing a book chronicling his detention so far and is in the process of writing another on Taiwanese independence.