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June 24, 2017

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Foreign aid to allies takes place according to the law: minister

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) yesterday stressed that all foreign aid projects Taiwan provides to its diplomatic allies are done in accordance with related laws.

Lin made the remark when asked to comment on a case earlier this week in which a former president of Taiwan's Central American ally Guatemala admitted to accepting bribes to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Alfonso Portillo, who served as the president of Guatemala from 2000 to 2004, pleaded guilty in a federal court in New York Tuesday to a conspiracy charge and said he accepted US$2.5 million in bribes to continue diplomatic recognition of Taiwan when he became president, according to foreign media reports.

Portillo was extradited to the United States in May 2013 after a long fight in Guatemala's courts, which had cleared the former president of embezzlement charges, reports said.

U.S. prosecutors had accused Portillo of laundering millions of dollars which they said he embezzled from the Guatemalan government, including a sum of US$2.5 million from Taiwan's embassy in Guatemala that was intended to buy books for school libraries, reports said.

But Portillo said the US$2.5 million was not intended for libraries, but rather represented "illegal payments from Taiwan," reports said.

Asked to comment, minister Lin said yesterday that the case has entered the judicial process and it would be inappropriate for the ministry to comment on it.

Lin, however, said the case occurred on 2000 to 2004 during the previous administration.

He noted the current administration has stuck strictly to its principles regarding its foreign aid programs and all projects have been conducted in accordance with laws, rejecting the possibility of Taiwan offering money to maintain official ties with its diplomatic allies.

This is not the first time a former leader of the nation's diplomatic allies have been accused of accepting donations from Taiwan government.

In January, Taiwan's Central American ally El Salvador launched a probe into former President Francisco Flores over an alleged donation scandal.

Flores admitted to a congressional panel on January that he received checks worth millions of U.S. dollars from Taiwan, but he denied the funds were for his personal use.

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