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Former president admits to lie about secret diplomacy

Former president admits to lie about secret diplomacy

Taipei, Dec. 30 (CNA) Former President Chen Shui-bian has admitted that he lied to a prosecutor about a so-called secret diplomatic mission that he claimed was financed by the president's "state affairs fund." Chen made the confession in a marathon hearing held Monday at the Taipei District Court on a request by prosecutors to take the former president back into custody. A panel of three judges ruled in the prosecutors' favor at the conclusion of the hearing early Tuesday.
Chen told the presiding judge that when questioned by prosecutor Chen Jui-jen in 2006, he falsely stated that he used money from the "state affairs fund" on a "south line" secret diplomatic mission targeting Australia, when the money in fact was used on another secret project.
Chen said he had to do so to prevent the mission from being made public in the name of the country's national interests and that he was sorry for not telling the truth.
The former president, who was last detained Nov. 12, was released Dec. 13 following his indictment along with 13 other people on charges of embezzlement, corruption and money laundering.
The court ruled early Tuesday that he should be taken back into custody on grounds that he is likely to flee, destroy or forge evidence, and collude with other co-conspirators.
The court pointed out that in an attempt to erase evidence of money laundering, Chen had refused to return a file submitted to him by former Investigation Bureau head Yeh Sheng-mao, which contained information of his family's overseas fund transfers.
With NT$570 million (US$17.27 million) of possible illicit gains remaining unaccounted for, chances were high that Chen could make off with the fortune to evade trial and a possible imprisonment, the court determined.
Also, Chen had previously colluded with others involved in his case to make false statements and had attempted to delay a probe into the "state affairs fund" case by classifying materials held by prosecutors as evidence, according to the court.
Chen, however, denied he had any intention of interfering with judicial proceedings.
Chen also denied he has attempted to conceal evidence, noting that his son Chen Chih-chung and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching -- who acted respectively as the proxy and a nominal holder of the former first family's overseas bank accounts -- have agreed to disclose the whereabouts of the NT$570 million mentioned by the court and transfer the money back to Taiwan.
However, the Special Investigation Division under the Supreme Prosecutors Office that is in charge of the cases has not responded to their offer, according to Chen.
On this issue, Chen Yun-nan, spokesman for the Special Investigation Division, said the couple should make the offer in a plea bargain during the trial now that they have been indicted.
Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen are accused of siphoning off NT$104 million from a special Presidential Office discretionary fund during his presidency from 2000 to May of this year. They are also charged with accepting bribes worth NT$100 million and NT$200 million in connection with a land procurement deal and another NT$90.93 million in kickbacks to help a contractor win the tender for a government construction project.
(By Y.F. Low)