The Special Investigation Division (SID) under the Supreme Prosecutors Office indicted former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui on Thursday, on charges of embezzlement. Also indicted was Liu Tai-ying, a major KMT manager during Lee’s presidency. As far as Lee is concerned, the charges are apparently not about unjustified enrichment, but about diverting funds (挪用), and money-laundering (洗钱). A beneficiary, according to the charges, was the Taiwan Research Institute (TRI, 台湾综合研究院), a think tank which was founded in 1994, six years after Lee had assumed office, and two years before he won another term as president in free elections. Lee is currently its honorary chairman.
The case involved sensitive diplomatic issues, and the indictment was therefore not made public in full, the Liberty Times (自由時報) quotes the investigators.
The Financial Times, quoting Taiwanese media, reports that a giveaway of 400 million NTD to an unidentified country in 1994 was in fact one to South Africa. South Africa had diplomatic relations with Taiwan at the time, and Taipei’s diplomacy traditionally keeps its diplomatic allies happy with various kinds of financial support.
The Taipei Times‘ online edition apparently hasn’t even broken news about the indictment yet, but Focus Taiwan published details about the indictment and the amounts of money used to various ends. According to Focus Taiwan’s report, the bill of indictment also accuses Liu Tai-ying of having pocketed more than 440,000 USD from an amount of 250 million NTD, received from Lee for the funding of the Taiwan Research Center’s establishment.
Investigations concerning the case have been going on since 2003, and in 2010, the Special Investigation Division, which belongs to the ministry of justice, underwent a reshuffle in which ten out of twelve investigators were replaced, according to the China Post.
Some two months later, in July 2010, president Ma Ying-jeou told Jerome Cohen, an American professor of law and once Ma’s mentor, that he wanted to “leave a legacy of building a country based on the rule of law”, and announced that a new agency exclusively responsible for fighting government corruption would be established under the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The Commission, which – similar to the SID and in contrast to Hong Kong’s Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) – is not independent from the government, is apparently not in charge of investigating Lee Teng-hui’s case.
According to a report by the BBC‘s Lin Nansen in 2010, the now oppositional DPP had plans to create a dedicated independent commission against corruption during its eight years in government from 2000 to 2008, which had been blocked by the KMT majority in the Legislative Yuan.