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"A penny for your thoughts"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Son of former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian faces probe into alleged money-laundering

Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian, 58, faces life imprisonment if convicted on charges of embezzling 104m New Taiwan dollars (£2m) from a special presidential fund, receiving bribes worth at least £6m in connection with a government land procurement deal, and laundering part of the funds by wiring the money to Swiss bank accounts.Thursday 26 March 2009 trial follows two months of pretrial hearings to review key elements in the case against Chen, his wife, Wu Shu-chen, their son, daughter-in-law and several aides and associates. The charges against him and his wife outline a complex scheme in which Chen allegedly allowed Wu to take bribes from businesspeople seeking political favours. Chen has professed ignorance of those alleged transactions, stressing that the former first lady alone managed millions of dollars in political donations and other funds. Unlike America, Hong Kong or Singapore, Taiwan cannot convict a politician simply for failing to prove his wealth has come from legitimate means. The prosecutor must also prove that a deal was struck to hand out political favours in exchange for bribes. Chen has denied the charges against him, saying they are part of an effort by the current president, Ma Ying-jeou, and his Nationalist party to curry favour with rival China. VIA

Update 22 January 2009. Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian's son Chen Chih-chung, his daughter-in-law Huang Jui-chin and his brother-in-law Wu Chin-mao all entered guilty pleas Wednesday 21 Jan 2009, in the latest development in a case that has gripped the island since Chen himself was arrested in November. The younger couple promised prosecutors they would send US$21 million back to Taiwan from their Swiss bank accounts and also repatriate another US$17 million from abroad. They also agreed to tell prosecutors the whereabouts of cash and jewellry worth around NT$600 million (US$17.88 million) that was being kept by the former first lady. Some Taiwanese saw the move by the young Chen as an attempt to break ranks with his father, others interpreted it as just part of the family's legal defence strategy aimed at reducing any eventual punishment. VIA

They also agreed to tell prosecutors the whereabouts of cash and jewellry worth around NT$600 million (US$17.88 million) that was being kept by the former first lady.

Taiwan's high court on Wednesday 07 January 2009 rejected an appeal by former president Chen Shui-bian against his detention on corruption charges pending trial. The former president was initially locked up for a month after his November arrest on embezzlement and money laundering charges. He was later released after an appeal from his lawyers and spent two weeks at liberty. Prosecutors twice applied for Chen to be put back in custody, succeeding on the second occasion after claiming he could collude with the other suspects and destroy evidence or flee the island if allowed to remain free. The former president and his wife Wu Shu-chen are accused of embezzling NT$104 million (US$3.15 million) in public funds and accepting a bribe of about US$12 million in a land purchase deal. Prosecutors also allege that Wu took a kickback of US$2.7 million in a construction project. Their son and daughter-in-law have also been charged with money laundering.

A Taiwan court on Thursday 18 December 2008 ruled it would stick to its previous decision to release former president Chen Shui-bian without bail pending trial on corruption charges. Chen, 58, is the island's first former leader to face criminal prosecution. He is charged with corruption and money laundering, with prosecutors alleging he embezzled public funds and took bribes. The court requires the former president to reappear at court whenever needed and his movements are also restricted. The Taipei District Court released Chen without bail on Saturday 13 December 2008 after he had spent more than a month in custody. Prosecutors appealed the decision, saying Chen could flee Taiwan, collude with other suspects and destroy evidence. The prosecutors would have needed more firm evidence against the defendant if they want him to be detained. Thirteen others are charged in connection with the case including Chen's wife, son and daughter-in-law, in a long-running saga which has captivated Taiwan.

Taiwan's detained former president Chen Shui-bian was rushed to hospital on Sunday 16 November 2008, a doctor said, days after he went on hunger strike to protest his arrest on graft allegations. Chen's arrest and detention is the latest development in a long-running corruption probe against the former leader, who has admitted submitting falsified expense forms while in office but said the money was used for "secret diplomatic missions" and not for his personal benefit. Other members of his family have also been implicated in alleged corruption, among them Chen's son-in-law, who last week had his seven-year jail term and a fine of 30 million Taiwan dollars for insider trading upheld by Taiwan's High Court. In a separate money laundering case, prosecutors have alleged that 21 million US dollars was sent to Swiss bank accounts belonging to Chen's daughter-in-law in 2007. The funds have since been frozen. Chen said last week that he was being victimised by the Kuomintang, which succeeded him after eight years in office, because he was the "biggest stone" blocking the island's reunification with the mainland.

A court ordered Chen locked up Wednesday 12th Nov 2008, capping 24 hours of high political drama that saw a defiant Chen led away in handcuffs, taken to hospital after saying he had been beaten by police, and then finally put behind bars.

The wheelchair-bound Wu Shu-chen(Taiwan's former first lady) was questioned at her home in an upmarket Taipei district instead of the prosecutor's office due to her frail condition in a corruption probe 15 November 2008. Wu is being questioned on suspicion of graft and forgery over the alleged embezzlement of around 15 million Taiwan dollars (about 450,000 US) during Chen's term in a case which also implicates the former president. Chen's son Chen Chih-chung and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching were interrogated on Friday 14th Nov 2008 over the alleged transfer of 21 million US dollars to Swiss bank accounts belonging to Huang in 2007. The funds have since been frozen. The couple have said they were not aware of the source of the funds and were only following the orders of Wu.

TAIPEI - Prosecutors in Taiwan on Tuesday 11 November 2008 sought formal approval to detain former president Chen Shui-bian in connection with a corruption probe, officials said. Chen is accused of money laundering, embezzling government funds, taking bribes and forging documents, a spokesman for the investigation said, adding that the charges carry a minimum five-year jail term. The former president has previously admitted using false receipts to claim money from the state, but insisted those funds were used for "secret diplomatic missions" -- not his personal benefit.
The ex-leader, his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and brother-in-law have all been named as defendants in a separate money laundering case. Taiwanese prosecutors say 21 million US dollars was sent to Swiss bank accounts belonging to Chen's daughter-in-law in 2007. The funds have since been frozen. Chen has admitted his wife wired 20 million US dollars abroad from past campaign funds but said she did so without his knowledge. He denies laundering money.

The son and daughter-in-law of former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian pledged innocence upon their return to Taiwan from the United States early Monday 25 Aug 2008. Chen Chih-chung and his wife Huang Jui-ching are suspected of laundering millions of dollars for the ex-president through overseas bank accounts, but Chen said he had only done what his mother had asked them to do. They flew to the United States this month just days before Taiwan authorities launched a probe into money laundering claims implicating the former first family, following similar moves by Swiss authorities.

Under Taiwanese law, false declaration of donations is subject to a fine of $9,670, but money laundering carries a seven-year prison sentence.

Friday, August 29, 2008- Prosecutors are seeking 2 1/2 years' imprisonment for Yeh Sheng-mao, chief of the Bureau of Investigation under Chen, for allegedly concealing documents given to his bureau by the Egmont Group, an international organization that collects data on suspicious financial activity. The Egmont documents expressed suspicion that the money wired into a Swiss bank account belonging to the daughter-in-law involved money laundering. Yeh retired at the end of Chen's second four-year term as Taiwan's president in May. Chen, former first lady Wu Shu-chen and other relatives have been listed as suspects in the case and are barred from leaving the island but have not been formally indicted. VIA

Shui-bian's son Chen Chih-chung and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching walk through arrivals at the Taipei International Airport, early Monday morning, Aug. 25, 2008,

Taiwan ex-president quits party over alleged money laundering 15 Aug 2008

The ex-president has openly confessed Aug. 14 that he had lied about his election campaign expenses and that his wife wired surplus funds from the election campaign contributions into overseas bank accounts but denied any illegal activity, that his wife had wired US$20 million abroad from his past campaign funds without his knowledge.Chen, who had immunity from prosecution while in office, was named as a co-offender in the case and was probed as soon as he stepped down from the presidency May 20. Prosecutors say they are trying to determine whether the funds were indeed donations left over from political campaigns - as Chen insists - or whether bribery might have been involved. Several Nationalist lawmakers have alleged that the ex-president took large bribes in connection with a spate of mergers initiated by the government in 2005, when several small banks took over a number of well-established financial institutions. Taiwanese newspapers also have reported that Chen received millions of dollars in bribes from Taiwan's Far Eastern Group. Both the company and Chen have denied those reports.

27 Aug 2008 Reports here said prosecutor Ching Chi-jen would probe claims that the Chen family had transferred funds to Switzerland via the Singapore bank accounts of the ex-president's brother-in-law Wu Ching-mao. The Taiwanese prosecutor flew to Singapore on Wednesday as part of a probe into alleged money-laundering by former president Chen Shui-bian and his family. According to her, US$21 million was sent to Huang's Swiss bank accounts in 2007 and was used to set up companies registered in the Cayman Islands.

Sat Aug 30, 2008-The former first family is suspected of sending at least T$1 billion ($31.7 million) to Japan, the United States, the Cayman Islands, Singapore and Switzerland, among other places, Taiwan newspapers said, citing the Supreme Court prosecutor's office. "In investigating the former first family's secret accounts overseas, the prosecutor discovered that Chen's family assets had been spread to at least four continents, including 10 countries and regions," the United Daily News said. Earlier this month, Swiss justice officials requested Taiwan's assistance in an investigation into suspected money laundering involving accounts held by Chen's son, Chen Chih-chung, and daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching. Swiss authorities have frozen $21 million in the couple's accounts.In Singapore, monetary authorities say they are cooperating with Taiwan investigators over another stash of suspicious funds. VIA Chen maintained that he did nothing illegal.

Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen, on August 15, resigned from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and apologized, thus: “Today I have to say sorry to all of the DPP members and supporters. I let everyone down, caused you humiliation and failed to meet your expectations. My acts have caused irreparable damage to the party. I love the DPP deeply and am proud of being a DPP member. To express my deepest regrets to all DPP members and supporters, I announce my withdrawal from the DPP immediately. My wife Wu Shu-jen is also withdrawing from the party.” DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen also apologized to the public on behalf of the party: “In regard to Chen and his wife’s decision to withdraw from the party and his desire to shoulder responsibility for his actions as well as to undergo an investigation by the party’s anti-corruption committee, we respect his decision and accept it.” Taiwan prosecutors on August 16 interrogated Wu Shu-chen and asked to explain overseas money transactions. A Kuomintang (KMT) party member alleged that Chen's wife bought jewelry to launder money. Hung Hsiu-chu, KMT, charged that Chen's family opened 4 bank accounts in Switzerland, with total deposits of 32 million U.S. dollars, which Chen remitted through his daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching.

On August 17, Supreme Court Prosecutor's Office announced Taiwanese investigators took away boxes of documents, after search of Chen's home in Taipei City, his office, and in Tainan, at the home of his wife's brother Wu Ching-mao. Chen was prohibited by prosecutors from leaving Taiwan. Chen has $ 21 million at overseas banks held in the name of family members.Shih Ming-teh, a former leader of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party accused Chen of laundering at least $ 85 million from an entrepreneur bidding for bank ownership in 2005. Coast Guard Administration spokesman Hsieh Ching-chin said: "We received the order from the special investigation unit around 9:20 pm last night saying former president Chen was barred from leaving the country." Chen's probe concerns NT $ 14.8 million (US $ 480,500) in special expenses from the government, while he was president, and his wife is on trial for corruption and document forgery. Prosecutors found at least NT $ 1.5 million had been spent on diamond rings and other luxury items for his wife.Upon his return to Taiwan, Chen's son claimed that he was a mere "figurehead," and was not directly involved in the transfer of money.

Chen commented upon the public's suspicions that he had engaged in money laundering by colorfully stating: "Money is dry, it cannot be washed (laundered); money is clean, not dirty, it does not need to be washed (laundered)." (錢是乾的,是不能洗;錢是乾淨的,沒有髒,是不需要洗).VIA

Family scandals from 2006
In May 2006, Chen approval rating, as determined by the TSU, fell to 5.8%, after a series of scandals centered around his wife and son-in-law. Additional sources showed his approval rating at around 20%. Support from his own party has also dropped with a few members calling for his dismissal as he had a bad influence on his party and has already caused them to lose the Republic of China presidential election, 2008 .On May 24, 2006, his son-in-law, Chao Chien-ming, was taken into custody by the Taipei police on charges of insider trading and embezzlement by the opposition party. This was a setback for the Chen Shui-bian administration. In related charges, there were accusations from the opposition party that Chen Shui-bian's wife was involved in trading stocks and obtaining Pacific Sogo Department Store's gift certificates illegally in exchange for settling the disputed ownership. On June 1, 2006, Chen declared that he was handing control of governmental matters to Premier Su Tseng-chang and announced he would not be involved in campaigning. He also stated that he was retaining authority on matters that the Constitution required him to retain authority over, presumably foreign affairs and defense policy, as well as relations with mainland China.

On July 20, 2006, Opposition politicians accused that Chen used a total of NT$10.2 million (US$310,000) worth of "fake invoices" to claim expenses after the National Audit Office found irregularities in Presidential Office accounts. The Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office is currently investigating over this accusation. In a press release issued by the Presidential Office responded that the president assured the investigators that he did not pocket a single cent of the fund. During questioning at the Presidential Office on the afternoon of August 7, 2006, the president detailed to the prosecutor how he spent the fund and presented relevant receipts and bank remittance statements.

President Chen also lost a libel case brought on successfully by PFP Chairman James Soong. Soong sued the President after Chen repeatedly accused him of secretly meeting the director of the People's Republic of China's Taiwan Affairs Office. Soong successfully sued Chen for NT$3 million.

On November 3, 2006, Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) and three other high ranking officials of the Presidential Office were indicted of corruption of NTD 14.8 million (USD$450,000) of government funds using faked documents. Due to the protection from the Constitution against prosecution of the sitting president, Chen could not be prosecuted until he left office, and he was not indicted, but was alleged to be an accomplice on his wife's indictment. The prosecutor of the case has indicated that once Chen leaves office, his office will start the procedures to press charges against Chen. His wife Wu becomes the first sitting First Lady of the Republic of China to face criminal charges since the foundation of the Republic in 1911. In a press conference November 5, 2006, Chen rebutted the charges against his wife and members of his Presidential office. He said that Taiwan government offices advised him to prepare the receipts in such a fashion, and that after 6 years of doing so, it is strange that they would never mention an irregularity if it wasn't the right way to do it. He promised that all of the money actually went to diplomatic missions and did not go into any private pockets. Furthermore, he mentioned that when he took office, he thought his salary was so excessive that he cut his own salary in half, and that reduction is more than the amount he is accused of embezzling, so there is no need for him to take those money. In addition, he said that if the charges against his wife were proven in a court of law just as they were charged, then he would at that time step down as President of the Republic of China. VIA

Copies of Swiss documents obtained by a Taiwan ese lawmaker showed Chen Chih-chung and his wife had transferred US$31 million to Swiss bank accounts in 2007.

Chen is already being investigated for allegedly embezzling US$480,500 in special expenses while president, and his wife is on trial for corruption and document forgery in the same case.

Questioned by prosecutors Friday, the former first lady said the US$21 million in overseas bank accounts under the name of her elder brother, Wu Ching-mao and daughter-in-law was the balance of political contributions for the campaigns of her husband in two mayoral elections and two presidential elections from 1993 to 2004.

The former president denied the money had any connection with the "state affairs fund" case, in which the former first lady was charged with corruption and forgery in November 2006 for using receipts provided by others to claim reimbursements totaling NT$14.8 million from the president's "state affairs fund" between July 2002 and March 2006.

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