Friday, August 15, 2008

Former Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian quits his party

Former Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-chen quit the Democratic Progressive Party on Friday, when he issued a written statement at 3:30 p.m., shortly before the opening of a meeting by the temporary standing committee of the DPP central committee.

Chen's move was apparently intended to avoid embarrassment at the meeting, which was to decide what to do about Chen, who admitted on Thursday that he had failed to fully declare his campaign funds, saying his wife transferred these funds abroad without informing him.

The move showed that Chen did not want to be expelled from his party, according to local observers.

"My conscience told me that I can't continue to cheat myself and others," Chen told a press conference on Thursday. He said he had thus decided to be frank that he had done something "not allowed by law".

He said he had untruthfully declared the amount of funds for four of his mayoral and Taiwan regional leader campaigns.

"Not until earlier this year did my wife admit that she had transferred some campaign money abroad without letting me know," he said.

Although Chen did not disclose the amount of remittances and denied any graft during his tenure, some of his opponents, including Hung Hsiu-chu from the Kuomintang party, charged that Chen's family had opened four bank accounts in Switzerland, with total deposits of almost 1 billion New Taiwan dollars .

Hung said that Chen had remitted large sums abroad through his daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching.

Taiwan's judicial authority confirmed on Thursday that the Swiss judicial authorities had sought Taiwan's assistance in probing the source of money belonging to Chen's son and daughter-in-law, as they suspected it could be a money-laundering case. Inspectors left Taiwan for Switzerland on Tuesday to further investigate the case.

On Tuesday, Taiwan prosecutors questioned Chen for a second time over his alleged role in a special government fund embezzlement case.

The Taiwan authorities on Aug. 6 declassified documents relating to Chen's use of special expenses, saying they contained no secrets.

Chen ended his tenure as Taiwan's leader in May.

Chen's admission concerning the funds transfer became headline news and a prominent item in TV broadcasts. Some media commentators urged that Chen be detained, since he and his family had repeatedly told the public that they had no overseas bank accounts and all their assets had been declared.

It also emerged that Chen's son and daughter-in-law had left Taiwan for the United States last Saturday.

The timing of their departure was "very unusual," said an inspector.

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