Thu, Apr 30, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Wu friend testifies on cash drop

NO WITNESSES The former first lady’s friend since middle school said he brought money from the Longtan land deal directly to Wu Shu-jen at the presidential residence

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former first lady Wu Shu-jen’s (吳淑珍) friend Tsai Ming-che (蔡銘哲) yesterday testified that he took money to the presidential residence in connection with a Taoyuan land deal.

Tsai was summoned as a defense witness 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, in which the former first family allegedly took kickbacks.

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 Wu and former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) 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.

Wu’s lawyer, Lin Chih-chung (林志忠), asked Tsai about his relationship with the former first lady. Tsai told the court that he had known Wu since middle school through his sister.

“I was my sister’s little tag-along,” he said.

As a long-time friend of Wu, he was in charge of helping her renovate the presidential residence in 2000. He said he had business cards printed with his title as “assistant to the first lady” because it would help them get bigger discounts.

“For example, when [Chen Shui-bian’s daughter] Chen Hsing-yu [陳幸妤] went to Hola to buy a bed originally priced between NT$800,000 and NT$900,000, Hola gave her a special price of NT$600,000. But [Wu] asked me to go back with the business card, and I managed to slash another NT$50,000 [off the price],” he said.

Wu’s lawyer asked Tsai whether he indeed used the word “bribery” last year, when he told SIP prosecutors that he gave the former first couple US$15.48 million in exchange for having the Longtan land included as part of the science park.

Tsai replied that he did not remember very clearly, but he thought he used the words “commission” or “money.”

He brought the money directly to Wu at the presidential residence, but there were no witnesses, he said.

Prosecutors allege that Chen Shui-bian proposed that the government first rent the plot of land, then 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, this contradicted ­testimony given by former National Science Council chairman Wei Che-ho (魏哲和), who told the court earlier this month that Chen Shui-bian did not give instructions on how to deal with the land.

Wu has admitted receiving money after the deal went through, but she has insisted it was not a bribe.

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