The prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the president's alleged misuse of a special state fund yesterday dismissed a magazine report that he advocated the current political turmoil should be resolved by recalling President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Eric Chen, the prosecutor heading an anti-corruption center under the Taiwan High Prosecutors Office in a statement issued late yesterday, reaffirmed his belief in the importance of judicial neutrality and refuted a report carried in Next Magazine that he supports the opposition sponsored motion to recall the president.
"I never made any political comments or gave any interviews to any magazine in my capacity as prosecutor in charge of the investigation," said Eric Chen.
The article in the latest issue of the magazine also gave what it said were details of the prosecutor's visit to former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) on September 15. But Eric Chen said in his statement that the magazine never "interviewed me or sought my verification" (of the facts) before publishing the article, though he did not deny meeting with the ex-president last month.
Some local media yesterday quoted a source from the High Prosecutors Office as saying that Eric Chen had visited Lee at his Taoyuan residence September 15 to ask questions regarding Lee's spending of the secret diplomacy fund when he was president from 1988 to 2000.
According to the media reports, Chen's questions centered around two themes - similarities and differences in the former and incumbent presidents' use of the fund in question and the sources of their spending for confidential diplomatic work.
The former president was quoted as having confirmed that one secret diplomatic mission executed by President Chen did indeed begin during his tenure.
As for other secret diplomatic missions that President Chen mentioned to the prosecutor, Lee said he had no knowledge of any projects launched after Chen came to power in May 2000, the reports claimed.
Lee also told the prosecutor that he did not use the special fund for secret diplomacy, because during his presidency such missions were mainly financed by two funds budgeted under the National Security Bureau's (國安局) "Fengtien" and "Tangyang" projects. The NSB closed the two projects in 2002, however, two years after the alleged embezzlement of more than NT$192 million from one of the funds by former NSB chief cashier Liu Kuan-chun (劉冠軍).
In yesterday's statement, Eric Chen also denied that the Taipei District Prosecutors Office had rejected a request by his office to take over the investigation into allegations that First Lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) had accepted Pacific Sogo Department Store gift certificates in exchange for her intervention in an ownership dispute in 2003.
The anti-corruption center never made any such request, as some political commentators claimed, Eric Chen said.
Chen and his colleagues have said that they hope to complete the investigation into the spending of the state affairs fund before the end of this month.
The investigators will give a written assessment on whether Chen and the first lady breached the law by using false invoices to cover spending for confidential diplomatic missions, the Central News Agency quoted an anonymous member of the investigation panel as saying.
Eric Chen's comment came in the wake of reports that he would not publicize his findings since the Constitution gives protection to the head of the state from criminal prosecution unless he is charged with "an act of rebellion or treason."
Meanwhile, even as prosecutors prepared to wind up their probe, opposition Kuomintang Legislator Lee Ching-hua's (李慶華) yesterday accused President Chen of the giving the investigators a "false" list of underground intelligence agents who were paid from the special fund.
The Presidential Office later in the day refuted the lawmaker's statement, saying that the president did give any such list to the prosecutors and that the only documents the Presidential Office had offered were the receipts and other papers related to Chen's spending of the fund.