The government has officially asked the US for part of the money from the sale of a New York property that was owned by the family of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), a prosecutor said yesterday.
The condominium in Manhattan, which was registered under the name of Chen’s son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), was seized by the US Department of Justice in November last year on allegations that it was purchased by the family with funds obtained through bribery.
The 109m2 two-bedroom condominium was auctioned for US$1.5 million on Tuesday.
Chen Chih-chung has reportedly reached an agreement with the US to obtain 15 percent, or US$225,000, of the money from the sale, while the US government will retain the other 85 percent, or US$1.275 million.
Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達), a spokesman for the Special Investigation Division (SID) under the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, said the SID had asked the US to share the US$1.275 million with Taiwan.
However, he did not disclose the precise amount the SID is seeking.
He said the SID would pursue a claim of US$225,000 from Chen Chih-chung after the conclusion of the ongoing court cases involving the Chen family.
In Taiwan, forfeiture of assets can only be carried out after court cases end, while US law allows asset forfeiture in the absence of conviction.
In a press release yesterday, the office of former president Chen Shui-bian rebutted media reports saying the former first family had received “proceeds from crime” from the auction of the condominium in Manhattan.
“The money for the purchase of the apartment came from political donations and election subsidies, which are all legal. The apartment was auctioned after the family reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice over the principle of procedural economy,” the office said.
The media reports which described the auction results as proceeds from crime were a misunderstanding of the US law and settlement procedure and an intentional distortion aimed at stigmatizing the former first family, it said.
Besides the Manhattan condominium, another residence in Keswick, Virginia, registered in Chen Chih-chung’s name was also seized by the US Department of Justice.
The house, which was purchased in July 2008 for US$550,000, has not yet been sold.
Zillow, an online real estate database in the US, estimated that the residence was worth US$502,189. Another online residential property site, Trulia, put the property’s value at US$507,000.
According to the US Department of Justice, the two properties were acquired through a British Virgin Islands shell company, allegedly with proceeds from a bribe of NT$200 million (US$6 million) given to former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) by Yuanta Securities Co in 2004.
In related news, the office of the former president yesterday rebutted a statement by the Agency of Corrections questioning reports that Chen Shui-bian had attempted suicide the night before he was transferred from Taipei Veterans General Hospital to Taichung Prison’s Pei Teh Hospital.
The agency said in a press release on Wednesday night that there was no mark of ligature on Chen Shui-bian’s neck, in an attempt to rebut Chen Chih-chung’s statement that his father tried to kill himself on the night of Thursday last week.
“Chen Shui-bian’s doctor at Veterans, Chou Yuan-hua (周元華), had confirmed the news reports and video recordings of the surveillance cameras that Taipei Prison set up at the hospital could be used as evidence. We urge the ministry [of justice] not to destroy the evidence,” the office said in the press release.
Meanwhile, former Democratic Progressive Party chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said after her visit to the ex-president yesterday at Pei Teh that home care was still the best treatment for the former president, who is serving a 20-year sentence for corruption, as the prison hospital was unable to provide the medical treatment he needed.