Thu, Apr 16, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Witness testifies to never contacting former president

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tsai Ming-che (蔡銘哲), a friend of former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), yesterday testified that he did not contact former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in a case involving allegations that Chen took kickbacks in a land deal.

Defense witness Tsai was summoned to appear at the Taipei District Court for questioning about his involvement in the 2004 sale of a plot of land in Longtan (龍潭), Taoyuan County.

Prosecutors allege that as Tsai was a close friend of the former first lady, he had easy access to the presidential residence. Prosecutors say Tsai helped the Chen family solicit bribes and lined his own pockets with a portion of the money as part of a deal between the government-run Hsinchu Science Park and Dayu Development Corp.

Tsai told defense attorney Shih Yi-ling (石宜琳) that he gave former Hsinchu Science Park chief James Lee (李界木) a commission for helping to close the deal and that he had only contacted Wu, his brother Tsai Ming-chieh (蔡銘杰) and Taiwan Cement Corp (台泥) chairman Leslie Koo (辜成允).

He said he never had any contact with the former president during the entire time the land deal took place.

Prosecutors allege that in a meeting at the Presidential Office between the former president, Lee and other government officials, Chen proposed that the council first rent the plot of land, then eventually buy it and include it as part of the science park. The idea was for Wu to collect NT$400 million (US$12 million) in bribes, prosecutors allege.

However, Tsai told the court that NT$510 million in commission was split up only among those who were involved in the deal and that the former first lady received NT$300 million.

This contradicted what former Chinatrust Financial Holding Co vice chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) told the court.

Koo previously told prosecutors that after the land deal was completed, Wu said to him: “I think Tsai Ming-chieh stole money from me” when she only received NT$200 million. Koo said Wu was very angry because she believed she should have received NT$400 million in commission.

Chen is charged with embezzling NT$104 million from the presidential “state affairs” fund, receiving bribes in connection with a government land deal and laundering part of the funds by wiring the money to Swiss bank accounts.

He has repeatedly denied the charges, saying the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is persecuting him because of his anti-China views.

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