Fri, Apr 10, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Former council chief defends Chen

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former chairman of the National Science Council Wei Che-ho (魏哲和) yesterday told a court that former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) did not interfere with the government’s purchase of land.

Wei was in court as a witness for the defense in the trial alleging that Chen accepted kickbacks in a land deal.

Wei, who served as council chairman from 2001 to 2004, was questioned for more than four hours at the Taipei District Court.

Prosecutors allege that in a meeting at the Presidential Office with former Hsinchu Science Park chief James Lee (李界木), Wei and other government officials, Chen proposed that the council first rent the plot of land in Longtan (龍潭), Taoyuan County, before eventually buying the land to include it as part of the Hsinchu Industrial Science Park.

The motivation was for former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) to collect NT$400 million (US$12 million) in bribes, prosecutors allege.

However, Wei told the court that the former president did not instruct him or other government officials on how to rent or purchase the plot of land in Longtan.

Wei told the court: “[During the meeting,] Lee first briefed the former president on the progress of the land purchase. However, [then premier Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃)] voiced concern about whether the decision would adversely affect Chen’s election campaign. I remember Chen said, ‘I will deal with the election campaign, and you deal with the administrative work as you see fit.’”

Prosecutors asked Wei then whether the former president gave specific instructions on options for purchasing or renting the land.

Wei replied: “No.”

He also denied that Chen had told him and other officials to “actively cooperate” in the handling of the land deal.

Meanwhile, the former first lady’s trial continued yesterday afternoon. Prosecutors allege that with the help of her friend, Tsai Ming-che (蔡明哲), Wu accepted US$2.73 million in bribes from contractor Kuo Chuan-ching (郭銓慶) to help him win a tender to build the Nangang Exhibition Hall between 2002 and 2003.

Kuo told the court yesterday that he gave Wu NT$600 million (US$17.8 million) through Tsai, but said the money was a political donation.

He said he also gave her US$2.2 million as a way of thanking her after his company won the tender for the construction project.

This contradicted what the former first lady said two months ago. She admitted to receiving US$2.2 million from Kuo, not US$2.73 million as stated in the indictment.

She did not say whether the US$2.2 million was a bribe as prosecutors allege or a political donation as she previously suggested.

Tsai was scheduled to testify in court yesterday, but because Chen Shui-bian’s trial went overtime, the judge asked Tsai to return to court at a later date.

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