Nation’s top prosecutors build consensus on special funds

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Top prosecutors of the nation finally reached a consensus yesterday with relaxed criteria over the possible incrimination of public servants who were suspected of mishandling their “special fees,” commonly known as expense accounts. State Public Prosecutor-General Chen Tsung-ming called a coordination meeting of all chief prosecutors at the Supreme Prosecutors Office to adopt a common stand.

The belated move was taken after the Supreme Court cleared President-elect Ma Ying-jeou of corruption charges pressed by prosecutors in late April.

Prosecutors at the Taipei Prosecutors Office and on the special investigation task force at Chen’s office relentlessly accused Ma of embezzling NT$11.18 million in expense accounts while he was Taipei mayor from 1998 to 2006.

Ma was charged with diverting the money from a discretionary fund into his personal account every month over about five years. The Taipei District Court, the Taiwan High Court, and the Supreme Court all exonerated Ma in grueling trials on grounds that he never attempted to embezzle the money while he had donated much higher amounts of money to charities over the years. The judges ruled that donating expense accounts for public charities to help underprivileged compatriots is a legitimate way of spending the money. The prosecutors’ move was widely interpreted as among the dirty tactics of the outgoing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to crush Ma’s presidential bid. After voters of the nation expressed their trust in Ma and gave him the mandate to lead the nation beginning today, Chen and other prosecutors eventually worked out much lenient criteria on the eve of Ma’s inauguration. The new rules set by the prosecutors will benefit at least 10 top DPP officials, including Vice President Annette Lu and several former premiers in counter-suits filed by the lawmakers of Ma’s incoming ruling Kuomintang. The much-relaxed criteria will give much leeway for officials in defense of their spending of the money in the monthly expense accounts for official affairs.

The officials will be assumed innocent unless prosecutors can find solid evidence proving the officials had abused the special funds for other purposes. The significantly-eased criteria will also benefit 6,500 other senior government officials entitled to the special expense accounts, after Ma was sacrificed in the high-profile corruption trials against him. While working out the relaxed rules, the prosecutors also expressed the hope that the Legislative Yuan may revise the existing regulations or enact a new set of statute to give crystal clear definitions on how to use the expense accounts by the senior public servants.