Wed, Apr 29, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Former bookkeeper testifies in Chen Shui-bian trial

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) former bookkeeper, Chen Chen-hui (陳鎮慧), testified yesterday that she gave presidential “state affairs fund” expense reports to an aide of her then boss.

She was testifying as a defense witness in Chen Shui-bian’s trial for allegedly embezzling from the presidential “state affairs fund.”

Prosecutors allege that more than NT$27 million (US$788,000) was withdrawn from the fund through the use of “inappropriate receipts” to claim reimbursements.

Chen Shui-bian and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), have denied that any of the money was used for their family’s personal expenses.

Chen Chen-hui was questioned and cross-examined yesterday by the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys on her handling of the “state affairs fund.”

She told the court that she would regularly produce three copies of expense reports for the presidential “state affairs fund” and give them to former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Ma Yung-cheng (馬永成) to give to Chen Shui-bian.

However, she said she did not know whether Chen Shui-bian looked at the expense reports.

Her testimony did not differ much from Ma’s testimony last week, when he told the court he had signed reimbursement slips to “approve” the president’s use of the “state affairs fund.”

Ma, who is a witness as well as a defendant, has repeatedly said that since he was not an accountant he should be relieved of all accounting responsibility. He also said he had trusted Chen Chen-hui and left his personal seal with her, which meant there would be no way to prove he personally stamped and approved the former president’s expenses.

Chen Chen-hui told the court that she was notified by the Presidential Office cashier every month to pick up the reimbursement using Ma’s seal.

“At first, I wasn’t very clear on the reimbursement process,” she said. “But then I found out the reimbursement slips needed [Ma’s] signed approval.”

Ma told her the “state affairs fund” was “the president’s money” but the reimbursement slips did not need to be signed by Chen Shui-bian, she said.

When Chen Shui-bian’s lawyer Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍) asked her why former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was allowed to pay presidential residence utility bills with money from the “state affairs fund,” but Chen Shui-bian had not been allowed to do so, Chen Chen-hui said she did not know why the rules were changed.

This was consistent with Ma’s testimony last week that, during the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration, many expenses were considered appropriately reimbursed from the fund, but when the Democratic Progressive Party took over, some accounting procedures were changed and they could no longer use the same reimbursement methods.

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