Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) came face to face with former Chinatrust Financial Holding Co vice chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) in court yesterday as Koo was questioned about allegations that Chen had accepted kickbacks as part of a land deal.
Called as a defense witness, Koo was questioned for more than seven hours about his involvement in the sale a plot of land in Longtan (龍潭), Taoyuan County.
Prosecutors allege that former first lady Wu Shu-jen’s (吳淑珍) friend Tsai Ming-che (蔡明哲) helped the Chen family solicit bribes and lined his own pockets with a portion of the money as part of the deal between the government-run Hsinchu Science Park and Dayu Development Corp — a subsidiary of the Koo Group.
However, Koo said it would be impossible for him to have had a stake in Dayu because he was the managing director of Chinatrust at the time of the deal.
Koo also contradicted his uncle, Taiwan Cement Corp chairman Leslie Koo (辜成允), saying that Leslie Koo owed his father NT$6 billion (US$176 million), but he did not owe his uncle any money, as his uncle had claimed.
Leslie Koo has testified that NT$200 million in commissions for the former first lady was supposed to be paid by Jeffrey Koo, but his nephew had backed-out of the deal after Chen Shui-bian won the 2004 presidential election, which his nephew had not expected.
When asked by Chen’s lawyer Shih Yi-lin (石宜琳) why he did not return to Taiwan to face trial in another case, Jeffrey Koo said: “I always wanted to come back, but a lawyer surnamed Hung (洪) convinced me not to return, saying I would be treated unfairly.”
In response to a later question from prosecutors, Jeffrey Koo identified the lawyer as Hung Kuei-san, a member of Chen’s defense team, which caused a commotion in the courtroom.
He also told Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) that prosecutors had not made a deal with him to get him to testify against Chen.
There has been widespread speculation that prosecutors had made a deal to convince Koo to return from Japan.
He had been in hiding since evading an arrest warrant issued in 2006 after he failed to answer a subpoena to appear in court over allegations of irregularities involving Chinatrust’s bid for rival Mega Financial Holding Co.
Jeffrey Koo returned to Taiwan last November. He was released on bail and without restrictions on where he could live or travel.
At the beginning of yesterday’s questioning, Jeffrey Koo appeared very nervous and barely made any eye contact with Chen. His voice was stronger in the afternoon when Chen confronted him directly.
“You’re not one of my counselors. Why did you say that after I was elected, I often talked to you about the financial market or diplomatic relations? Are we that close?” Chen asked him.
This seemed to anger Jeffrey Koo, who replied: “Our closeness had been entirely built on money.”
He then went on to detail large donations made by his family to Chen during his campaigns.
“Indeed, I wasn’t your counselor, but I had been more involved in your affairs [than your counselors],” he said. “No counselor would give you that much money.”
Former Hsinchu Science Park chief James Lee (李界木) had been scheduled to be questioned at 3:30pm but his appearance was postponed until April 16 because Koo’s questioning ran so long.