Former Hsinchu Science Park chief James Lee (李界木) yesterday contradicted his testimony in a case involving alleged embezzlement by former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) in a land deal.
Called as a defense witness, Lee appeared at the Taipei District Court yesterday to be questioned on his involvement in the 2004 sale of a plot of land in Longtan (龍潭), Taoyuan County.
Prosecutors allege that Lee, who is also a defendant in the Longtan case, took NT$30 million (US$890,000) in bribes as part of a deal between the government-run Hsinchu Science Park and Dayu Development Corp.
Lee yesterday admitted to receiving the NT$30 million after the deal went through, but he insisted that the money was not a bribe. He said he did not tell the former president that he received the money and that Chen “only instructed him on policies,” not on how to rent or buy the land, as prosecutors have alleged.
“From the beginning to the end [of the Longtan deal], I knew nothing about the money. I didn’t know how they divided [the money] up, and I wouldn’t ask,” he said.
When prosecutors asked him whether he was bound by law to report to the former president on the progress of the Longtan deal, he said that he had not reported to the former president.
This contradicted what he said in answer to prosecutors’ questions last year, when he said that after he briefed the former president on the Longtan deal, Chen had instructed him to first rent the land, then buy it.
Confronted with this contradiction, Lee said that his testimony yesterday was “more correct” because he had remembered more details as the case had developed. He also insisted that he had only briefly mentioned the Longtan deal to the former president when he visited former first lady Wu She-jen (吳淑珍) at the residence, and that his meeting Chen was a “coincidence.”
Prosecutors allege that in a meeting at the Presidential Office with Lee and other government officials, Chen had proposed that the council first rent the Longtan land, then buy it for the Hsinchu Science Park.
The motivation behind the move was for the former first lady to collect NT$400 million in bribes, prosecutors allege.
Prosecutors yesterday asked Lee if anyone was opposed to the plan, to which he replied: “Somebody must have opposed it, but in the end, everyone reached a consensus that we would try [the plan] for one or two months, and if it didn’t work out, then it didn’t work out.”