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May 27, 2017

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MOA auditing presidential expenses

Officials from the Ministry of Audit (MOA) went to the Presidential Office yesterday to audit the expense accounts and determine if there were any irregularities as alleged by opposition lawmakers.

Spokesman Wang Yung-hsing at the MOA under the Control Yuan said two officials holding the position as section chiefs at the ministry spent two hours at the Presidential Office in the afternoon to exchange views on how the audit operations will proceed.

He said the two will return today to look into the invoices, receipts, and accounting books related to the distribution of gift vouchers of department stores and other expenses made by President Chen Shui-bian, his family and other officials. The audit operations are focused on if "government employees" had engaged in "disloyal and illegal actions" when using the fund, he explained.

The audit will be wrapped up in five days. But the results will not be released to the public because leaking the information would break the rules in the National Secretes Protection Law, he said.

Aside from the annual budget for the personnel and operations of the Presidential Office from taxpayers, the Presidential Office is entitled to an additional expense account of NT$50 million per year.

Lawmaker Sun Ta-chien of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said that he had provided the name list of staff handling the year-end dinner and lucky draw gifts, including gift vouchers of a department store, to the MOA and prosecutors' office for investigation.

Wang said that he was not aware of Sun's action and he has not yet studied the relevant materials yet.

Sun also urged the MOA to take quick action since it would never find the truth after relevant evidences are destroyed.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Lin Pang-liang at the Taipei Prosecutors Office said prosecutors have almost finished checking a batch of gift vouchers issued by Pacific Sogo Department Store Co.

Lee Heng-lung, top executive of Pacific Distribution, had acquired NT$11.47 million of Pacific Sogo vouchers and more than 90 percent of the vouchers have been used for purchases at stores of the company.

But Liang said prosecutors still need time to find out if the vouchers were related to the fight over the control of Pacific Sogo Department Store Co.

Opposition legislators alleged that a large portion of the vouchers have found their way into the hands of President Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen through medical doctor Huang Fan-yen, a close friend of the first family.

Lin denied a media report that Taipei prosecutors are subpoenaing the first lady as a witness in the alleged Sogo Department Store gift voucher scandal case on June 30.

Lin said that Huang, a deputy superintendent of the Shin Kong Hospital in Taipei, will be summoned on Friday for questioning concerning if he had forwarded vouchers to Wu and whether the higher-ups had allegedly intervene with the ownership transfer of the department store chain.

Huang only returned to Taipei recently after spending a couple of weeks in the U.S. following the reopening of the voucher case, which was first brought to public 2.5 years ago.

Prosecutors may decide in later days whether to talk to Wu depending on how the case unfolds.

Lin explained that the prosecutors have no plan at present to summon the first lady.

He added that even if it is determined that Wu should be called to help in the probe, her health condition will be an important factor for consideration by the prosecutors.

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