Actress launches court bid to seize Ma’s ‘state affairs fund’

KNOTTY PROBLEM::A dispute over a tie offered by President Ma Ying-jeou as an auction prize when he was Taipei mayor has ended up in the courts

By Ho Po-chingand Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 - Page 3

Veteran actress Kuo Mei-chu (郭美珠) on Wednesday took President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to court by applying with the Taipei District Court for the provisional seizure of his “state affairs fund.”

Kuo’s lawyer, Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘), said that as serving president, Ma had immunity from criminal prosecution, and therefore they are pursuing a civil lawsuit demanding that he return alleged financial gains, while applying for the temporary seizure of his NT$250,000 discretionary fund.

The case stems from a dispute going back to an auction in 2002, in which Kuo bid NT$250,000 for a yellow tie donated by Ma, who was Taipei mayor at the time.

Despite winning the bid, Kuo said she never received the tie from Ma.

Tsai said Ma did not make any objections at the time, therefore the tie was auctioned and he should have given it to Kuo at the event.

“Ma tried to make amends by asking former legislator Lee Fu-hsing (李復興) to send Kuo a blue tie in March 2010 ... But this only proved that back in 2002 this was an agreed transaction for Ma’s yellow tie, and it also proved that Ma had not fulfilled his obligation on this transaction,” Tsai said.

“I won the bid for a yellow tie. The blue tie sent to me is a fake,” Kuo said at the time.

Kuo mailed a registered letter on Dec. 7 demanding Ma that carry out his obligation. However, she has yet to receive a reply from the Presidential Office.

“Even such a small matter, Ma has handled badly. No wonder international news journals rated him as a ‘bumbler,’” she said. “To this day, I still haven’t received that yellow tie.”

Tsai said they were applying for provisional seizure because Premier Sean Chen (陳?) once told media that Ma donated up to NT$70 million to charity over the years.

“Since this amount surpassed Ma’s annual salary, to prevent Ma from using the excuse of him having no money after donating all his salary, we have applied for the provisional seizure on his presidential ‘state affairs fund.’ This way we are going through the legal process to protect what is owed Kuo,” Tsai said.

Kuo said if she wins the case, she will donate the NT$250,000 to organizations that provide care and help to elderly entertainers in financial need.

Witness testimonies and cross-examination began at the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on Wednesday in another high-profile lawsuit, initiated by Kuo and others against television host Pai Ping-ping (白冰冰) for alleged fraud and illegal appropriation of government subsidies.

Kuo and several veteran entertainers said Pai pocketed NT$19.5 million (US$670,000) in government subsidies intended for the production of the TV variety show Ha Ha Laughing Every Day (天天哈哈笑), which featured their work, but they did not receive the wages shown on the receipts submitted by Pai.

“The subsidy money was for the government to take care of elderly entertainers. It should not go into one individual’s pockets. This is a thief stealing the nation’s money for her own gain. Ma must also bear responsibility for this,” Kuo said.

The prosecutors said they would call on Pai and executives to testify in coming days.

Tsai said they had asked the Ministry of Culture to provide details on the case in October, but the agency refused. He said prosecutors also requested accounting receipts and reports from the variety show, but the ministry has not given any information.

“We suspect the Ministry of Culture of hiding information. We will not rule out also suing Minister of Culture Lung Ying-Tai (龍應台),” Tsai said.

Actress Tian Lu-lu (田路路) was among those called to testify.

“The evidence is clear, the courts can decide. If Pai wants to sue us, she can do so,” Tian said.

Singer Liu Yen-yen (劉燕燕) said: “When we went on the variety show, we were paid NT$10,000 each time, but had NT$1,000 deducted for taxes.”

“Each show had at most four or five veteran entertainers, for a total of at most NT$80,000. Pai submitted costs of NT$280,000 for subsidies. We do not see how Pai could have come up with that amount,” Liu said.