02/11/2009, 00.00
TAIWAN
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Wife of former president admits to money laundering

Former First Lady Wu Shuchen admits receiving US$ 2.2 million and taking them out of the country without her husband’s knowledge. She denies charges of corruption. Experts suggest that by admitting to lesser charges she is trying to regain some public sympathy and prevent her husband from being found guilty on more serious charges.
Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Wu Shuchen, wife of former Taiwan President Chen Shuibian, admitted yesterday that she laundered .2 million and forged documents, but she rejected charges of embezzling money or taking bribes in connection with a construction project.

Wu appeared before the Taipei District Court for the first time since proceedings against her began in December 2006. Her previous absence was due to health reasons. Wu, who has been paralysed since she was hit by a truck in 1985, arrived in a wheelchair.

During the two and half hour hearing she admitted helping a businessman get a project for which she was paid a US$ 2.2 million commission, but she said she believed that it was just a “political contribution” which she took abroad through her brother Wu Chingmao, without her husband’s knowledge.

“I apologise for involving several innocent family members,” she said to the press after the hearing.

Former President Chen has been accused of corruption and embezzlement. In addition to his wife, his children and their spouses are charged in some of the cases involving the former Taiwanese head of state.

Chen, who has been in jail for months, has been on a hunger strike for 16 days to buttress his claims that his arrest was politically motivated, that his successor, current President Ma Yingjeou, is persecuting him to curry favour with China, which the staunchly pro-Taiwan Chen opposes.

Experts believe that Ms Wu’s defence is part of a strategy to clear her husband of more serious charges brought against him.

It will be difficult for prosecutors to prove the origin of the money she took out of the country.

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