The China Desk
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The Tseng Wen-hui Case: Sixteen Unanswered Questions
by Fung Hu-hsiang, PhD., former Senator, Republic of China (New Party)
translated by Bevin Chu
Introduction: On March 19, 2000 former ROC First Lady Tseng Wen-hui, it is widely believed, fled to New York with 54 suitcases containing US$85,000,000 in embezzled funds, where she was intercepted by US Customs officials. ROC Senators Fung Hu-hsiang, Hsieh Chi-tah and Dai Chi, of the small but influential New Party demanded a thorough investigation of the scandal, which was witnessed by EVA Air baggage handlers, US Customs agents, high-ranking US State Department officials, Bank of America executives, and Brink's security guards. But a deal was apparently struck between the US State Department and former ROC President Lee Teng-hui: In exchange for his resignation as KMT Party Chairman, Lee and his wife would get to keep their ill-gotten gains, and the embarrassment to both governments would be covered up. Not content, a vindictive Tseng filed slander suits. A Taipei District Court dismissed them for lack of evidence. Tseng filed appeals. A more sympathetic High Court presided over by a judge connected to the former president convicted Fung, Hsieh and Dai. Fung was sentenced to 4 months prison and fined NT$10,000,000 in damages. How does the public on Taiwan feel about the verdicts? A scientific poll released by the Chinese Professors Association of Taipei is highly instructive. Forty-two percent of the public believe the judges' verdict was unjust; only 24% believe it was just. Forty-two percent of those with college educations believe the former First Lady is guilty, while 33% of those without a higher education believe she is innocent. Sixty-two percent of the public believes the legal system on Taiwan is incapable of reaching a just verdict free from political influence, while fewer than 16% believe it is. The Democratic Progressive Party has long sold itself as the island's Defender of Justice. The Taiwan public alas, has concluded otherwise.
-- Bevin Chu
Question 1: When former First Lady Tseng Wen-hui called four witnesses to testify on her behalf, to prove she was never out of the country, they offered four mutually conflicting, mutally contradictory versions of what they did during the time in question. Why? Was it because they were questioned separately, hence unable to coordinate the details of their testimony?
Question 2: Lee Wu-nan, the former president's butler/major domo, testified that he accompanied Tseng Wen-hui and her daughter-in-law Chang Yue-yun to Yangminshan to tend the grave of the former First Couple's deceased son, Lee Hsien-wen. Tang Wen-chi, the duty policewoman swore on the other hand, that Lee didn't. Contradictory testimony over significant facts such as this casts serious doubt on their credibility.
Question 3: Tsai Han-ming, Chief of the Presidential Bodyguard testified that the police department's traffic control detail accompanied Tseng Wen-hui's motorcade, proving that the First Lady never left the island. The traffic control detail categorically denied they did any such thing. Why the glaring contradiction? Was it because the police department's traffic control division had the courage to resist pressure from the highest level and insisted on telling the truth?
Question 4: Chief Tsai admitted he burned vital evidence -- President Lee and his wife's itineraries. Why would he do such a bizarre thing? Why would he destroy evidence which proved the former First Lady's innocence -- unless of course it didn't? Furthermore Tsai insisted the president knew nothing of his actions. Really?
Question 5: Tseng Wen-hui knew the entire nation was abuzz with rumors she had skipped the country. Why then did she remain missing for 88 straight hours? If she was really on the island all that time, all she had to do was show her face. Why didn't she? Could it be because she was not in the country at all, hence unable to make the public appearance that would have scotched such rumors? Eighty-eight hours, after all, is enough to make not one, but two round trips from Taipei to New York.
Question 6: Lee Teng-hui trotted out one excuse after another to justify his stubborn refusal to resign the Chairmanship of the KMT. So why did he suddenly resign at noon on March 22, immediately following the return of the cash in Taipei? Was this really nothing more than sheer coincidence? Or did widely circulated accounts of a deal struck with the US government contain more than a grain of truth?
Question 7: The Bank of America alleged that the US currency in question was merely part of a "routine transfer of bank notes". Really? How was Bank of America able to tranfer immense sums through five major international cities, from Taipei to Hong Kong to Toronto to Washington DC to New York, in eight short hours, in such an obvious departure from normal routine?
Question 8: The banknotes in question were used bills, tied with hemp twine. Since when did the Bank of America start making "routine transfers of bank notes" with used bills, crudely tied with hemp twine, stuffed into ordinary plastic bags commonly found on Taiwan?
Question 9: The Bank of America has never been able to supply investigators with five sets of matching withdrawal and deposit forms for the tranfers in question. Why not? Could it be the "routine transfers of banknotes" never took place, and bank officials are not willing to go so far as to falsify documents?
Question 10: The Chairman of Bank of America's Taiwan branch, a US citizen, mysteriously and prematurely resigned, picked up stakes and moved to the United States. It sure looks as if he was determined not to testify, doesn't it?
Question 11: Lee Chang-hsu, a resident of Washington, DC, has stated that his neighbor, a high-ranking State Department official, revealed that Tseng Wen-hui had indeed been caught red-handed smuggling in vast sums of undeclared cash, and that the fiasco "was no secret at the State Department." Yet US Customs refused to issue any official statement. Why?
Question 12: The State Department, it turns out, ordered US Customs not to respond to requests for information. But if nothing happened, why wouldn't the State Department instruct Customs to issue a straightforward denial? Could it be because Lee Chang-hsu's information is correct?
Question 13: Law enforcement officials have refused to subpoena officials at the American Institute in Taiwan -- the US government's defacto embassy on Taiwan. Why? Is it because although AIT personnel enjoy diplomatic immunity and can refuse to testify, any such refusal would amount to an admission they were witholding information?
Question 14: Investigative authorities formed a Special Investigative Unit which soon discovered that something was indeed amiss. So why did they abruptly terminate their investigation? When Fung Hu-hsiang asked one of the officials in charge about the matter, the official explained they were under orders not to dig any deeper.
Question 15: The High Court swept aside eyewitness testimony and physical evidence Fung presented that would have exonorated him. Lee Chang-hsu for example, was willing to identify the State Department official by name. Could this travesty of justice have anything to do with the fact that Lu Ru-yen was among the presiding judges in the case? Lu is the daughter of Attorney General Lu Ren-fa, a Lee Teng-hui appointee who covered up his benefactor's criminal complicity in the Lafayette Frigate procurement scandal.
Question 16: Fung, Hsieh, and Dai had more than sufficient cause to suspect criminal wrongdoing. Not only was it their prerogative as democratically elected officials of the Republic of China to demand a Watergate/Whitewater style investigation, it was their solemn duty. The ROC Constitution guarantees Fung, Hsieh, and Dai immunity from prosecution for just this reason. Yet the High Court acquiesced to every one of Tseng Wen-hui's demands, summoning only the four witnesses Tseng named, while denying Fung Hu-hsiang's witnesses any opportunity to testify on his behalf. Why were Fung, Hsieh, and Dai railroaded? What was the government so afraid of? That the truth might unfavorably impact Chen Shui-bian's re-election bid?