Taiwan seeks Swiss help in probing ex-president's offshore accounts

Other News Materials 17 August 2008 21:37 (UTC +04:00)

Taiwan is seeking assistance from Switzerland in probing suspected money laundering by former president Chen Shui- bian, a prosecutor said on Sunday, the dpa reported.

"I have asked Swiss judicial authorities for legal assistance ... to pass on to us all the data they have on the case, and to return Chen's assets if it is proven that they were obtained illegally," Prosecutor Ching Chi-jen told reporters upon her return from Switzerland.

"Regarding our request for legal assistance, we received a positive reply," she said at Taoyuan International Airport outside Taipei.

Ching flew to Switzerland on July 12 after Swiss judicial authorities alerted the Taiwan government about suspicious transfers into a bank account opened by Chen's daughter-in-laughter Huang Jui- ching.

The bank account holds 20 million US dollars, wired in from Taiwan through several foreign banks.

After the Taiwan press reported Chen's suspected money-laundering, Chen held a news conference Thursday, admitting he failed to declare campaign funds from the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, and his wife Wu Shu-chen had remitted the funds abroad this January without telling him.

But prosecutors are trying to determine if the couple was attempting to launder illegally obtained money.

Investigators claimed to have found details of four other secret bank accounts, three opened in 2000, when Chen won the presidential election, and one opened in 2004, when he was re-elected for a second four-year term.

The four accounts hold a total of 500 million Taiwan dollars (16 million US dollars).

On Saturday, prosecutors barred Chen and his brother-in-law Wu Ching-mao from going abroad after searching Chen's home and office and Wu's home earlier in the day, the Taiwan daily China Post reported.

Wu, elder brother of Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen, allowed Wu Shu-chen to use his bank account to wire money abroad.

Chen was the former chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Corruption scandals involving Chen's family and DPP officials caused the party to lose the 2008 election to the pro-China Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Chen quit the DPP on Friday as the party was preparing to expel him.