Thu, Apr 23, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Accountant says she was ‘just following orders’

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chen Chen-hui, bookkeeper to former president Chen Shui-bian, appears yesterday at the Taipei District Court, where she was called as a defense witness in the trial of aides to the former president.

PHOTO: WANG YI-SUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

The former bookkeeper of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday told the district court that she followed the former first lady’s and former presidential aides’ instructions on matters regarding the presidential “state affairs fund.”

Chen Chen-hui (陳鎮慧) was called to testify in the trial involving former presidential aides allegedly helping Chen Shui-bian to embezzle from the fund.

Former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成) and former director of Chen Shui-bian’s office Lin Teh-hsun (林德訓) are accused of assisting the former first family in embezzling NT$104.15 million (US$3 million) in government funds earmarked for the former president’s discretionary use while he was in office.

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

The district court ruled that Ma should be indicted as an accomplice because he was one of the people who approved inappropriate reimbursements from the fund.

Called as a defense witness on behalf of Ma and Lin, Chen Chen-hui yesterday told the court that she did everything as she was told.

“I listed detailed expenses in monthly reports that I would hand to [former first lady Wu Shu-jen, 吳淑珍] and [Ma] or [Lin],” she said.

Chen Chen-hui said she followed Ma’s and Lin’s directions on processing reimbursements from the “state affairs fund.” However, the two former aides have repeatedly sought to pin the blame on Chen Chen-hui by saying that because they were not accountants, they should not be held accountable for accounting duties and responsibilities.

In an attempt to clear himself of any wrongdoing, Ma told the court that because the presidential “state affairs fund” was very different in nature from all other accounts, Chen Chen-hui “had her own reimbursement and approval process” for the fund.

Ma said that because Chen Chen-hui was the person most knowledgeable about the former first family’s finances, he trusted her and left his seal with her because the reimbursement slips needed to be stamped with his personal seal to go through.

He said he was unfamiliar with the reimbursement slips and expense reports because they were internal books kept by Chen Chen-hui and he did not have authority over them and could not examine them.

Ma also testified as a defense witness yesterday in the trial involving Chen Shui-bian allegedly embezzling from the presidential “state affairs fund.”

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

When Ma testified as a witness called by Chen Shui-bian’s attorneys, he said that in the “state affairs fund” case, he “played a coordinating role” and complied with the rules without asking too many questions because he wanted to make Chen Chen-hui’s job easier.

However, he said he didn’t know which law was the basis for the assumption that his signed approval was needed on reimbursement slips for the former president.

“In the past, [reimbursements from] the state affairs fund could not be approved by a person in a non-authoritative position,” Ma said, emphasizing that because he was only an aide, he did not have the authority to be in charge of approving the reimbursements.

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