Wed, Apr 15, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Aide blames accountants for Chen reimbursements

‘NO POWER’ Former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Ma Yung-cheng said that there was no way for him to verify which expenses were official

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

On the sixth day of former first lady Wu Shu-jen’s (吳淑珍) trial on charges of embezzlement, bribery and money laundering yesterday, a former presidential aide said that he was not responsible for approving any reimbursements and pointed the finger at accountants.

Defense witness Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成), former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general, was called to appear at the Taipei District Court yesterday to testify on the handling of the presidential “state affairs fund.”

Ma was the deputy secretary-general of the office between 2000 and 2006.

Prosecutors allege that more than NT$27 million (US$788,000) was withdrawn from the fund using “inappropriate receipts” to claim reimbursements. Wu denies that any of the money was used for the former first family’s personal expenses.

While answering defense attorney Lin Chih-chung’s (林志忠) and prosecutors’ questions, Ma repeatedly sought to pin the blame on the former president’s bookkeeper Chen Chen-hui (陳鎮慧) and the accounting department.

“The presidential state affairs fund is the president’s money. I can’t spend it or interfere with the president’s decisions on how to use the money,” Ma said.

He gave lengthy, repetitive answers on his lack of legal power to authorize the former president’s expenses, and said he did not know why the reimbursements would need the approval of someone in his position.

“When the prosecutors were questioning me, they made the assumption that because we [presidential aides] signed [reimbursement slips], it meant we approved the expenses. But in fact, there was no way for us to verify which expenses were official and which were personal,” he said.

He said that Chen Chen-hui was the financial contact for the former first family.

“Chen Chen-hui never told me, ‘You have the right to refuse to sign,’” he said.

Ma also denied suggesting using other people’s receipts to claim reimbursements. This contradicted Wu’s testimony from a month ago, when she told the court that Ma said they had to use receipts to claim reimbursements because the rules had changed.

Wu arrived at the court at around 2:30pm with her usual entourage including her son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), a doctor, a nurse and caregiver. At one point during Ma’s questioning, she fell asleep in her wheelchair. Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) then allowed her to take a one-hour rest.

In February, she admitted using fake receipts to gain reimbursements from the presidential “state affairs” fund, but denied embezzling money from the fund and other charges of taking bribes in connection with a land deal and a government construction project.

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