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US forfeits properties former Taiwan First Family

Chen Chih-chung hints at political interference

US forfeits properties former Taiwan First Family

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The United States authorities forfeited two pieces of real estate owned by Chen Chih-chung, the son of jailed former President Chen Shui-bian, reports said Thursday.
The Department of Justice and the Homeland Security Department announced they were taking over the properties, with a combined value of US$2.1 million (NT$61 million), in the context of the battle against foreign officials spending earnings from corruption.
The elder Chen is serving an 18-and-a-half-year prison sentence on charges of corruption. He is currently undergoing psychiatric treatment at the Veterans General Hospital in Taipei after tests last month.
The two properties were a condominium in Manhattan, New York City, and a house in Keswick, Virginia. The US government would take a share of 85 percent of the sales value of the properties.
“The former first family used Hong Kong and Swiss bank accounts, British Virgin Island companies and a St. Kitts and Nevis trust to purchase the two properties,” said a news release on the Justice Department web site.
The statement linked Chen’s ownership of the real estate to a scandal involving the alleged payment of NT$200 million (US$6.8 million) in bribes by Yuanta Securities to former First Lady Wu Shu-jen in 2004 to ensure that the company would not face government opposition against a takeover plan.
“The former president of Taiwan’s family allegedly accepted millions in bribes in exchange for official action favoring Yuanta Securities, and we have now taken possession of two valuable properties purchased with their alleged spoils. We are committed to using every tool available to root out foreign official corruption,” the statement quoted Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the department’s Criminal Division as saying.
The seizure of the luxury properties were “part of a continued effort by Homeland Security Investigations special agents to identify, locate, and seize properties and accounts in the United States belonging to (Chen Shui-bian) and his family,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton.
Breuer described the action against Chen as part of the Justice Department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, a program designed to counter the laundering of corruption proceeds in the US.
Reacting to the news in Taipei, Chen Chih-chung said he found the statement from the US “strange” because he had already reached a consensus with the judicial authorities. The properties were “frozen” several years ago and an attorney had been asked to handle the matter, Chen said.
Because it would have been difficult to hold court sessions either in Taiwan or the US, a consensus was reached through an attorney to work toward an agreement which would not affect a question of guilt or innocence, he said.
Chen also condemned the statement for its accusations of corruption against his parents. There had been no final verdict in the case, so the US conclusion had no basis in fact, he said. Chen insisted the two properties had been bought with legal funds, so there should be no problem with the US authorities. He speculated that political interference might have played a part in the latest developments.


Updated : 2021-08-02 15:17 GMT+08:00