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Cablegate: Former President Chen's Family Under Investigation For

VZCZCXRO2720
PP RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #1298/01 2452224
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 012224Z SEP 08
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9865
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 4340
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8565
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN 0123
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 9773
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 7425
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0185
RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA 0594
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 4364
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR 4008
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 3652
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 5006
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 2221
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0012
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 2222
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 1402
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 TAIPEI 001298

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PLEASE PASS USTR
STATE FOR EAP/RSP/TC, EAP/EP
USTR FOR KATZ AND STRATFORD
USDOC FOR 3132/USFCS/OIO/EAP
TREASURY FOR OASIA/TTYANG AND PISA
TREASURY ALSO PASS TO FEDERAL RESERVE/BOARD OF
GOVERNORS, SAN FRANCISCO FRB/TERESA CURRAN, AND NEW YORK FRB MARI
BOLIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV EFIN PGOV ECON PREL SENV TW
SUBJECT: Former President Chen's Family Under Investigation for
Possible Money Laundering

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION
------------------------
1. (SBU) Although it is not uncommon for Taiwan's wealthy or upper
middle classes to send money overseas for investment, to avoid tax,
or for other reasons, it came as a shock to many when former
President Chen Shui-bian acknowledged that his family had
accumulated overseas accounts equivalent to US$21 million.
According to Chen, the funds came from unused campaign donations
over the years, and he admitted not fully reporting campaign
donations, which he characterized as behavior "not permitted by
law." Chen said none of the money was ill-gotten, and he asserted
that the overseas transfers had been orchestrated by his wife
without informing him in advance. Taiwan has launched a major
investigation of Chen, his family, and many of his associates and
others. This investigation is in addition to the ongoing
investigation into the alleged misuse of State Affairs funds
involving the former president and his wife. End Summary.

Yes, It's My Money
------------------
2. (SBU) After a KMT legislator charged that she had evidence (a
leaked document) that former President Chen Shui-bian had
transferred US$21 million to secret accounts in Switzerland, Chen
admitted on August 14 that his wife Wu Shu-chen had transferred
large sums of money out of Taiwan. He said that funds totaling
about US$21 million held overseas in the names of his children or in
companies they control are in fact his assets and apologized that he
had not disclosed these assets while holding public office, which
was, as he characterized it, "not permitted by law." Chen claimed
his invalid wife, however, arranged these money transfers without
his knowledge. Chen's admission came only a day after one of his
attorneys had denied related charges made by Next magazine.

What the Former First Lady Says
-------------------------------
3. (SBU) Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, reportedly told prosecutors
during questioning that none of the US$21 million came from
ill-gotten gains. She claimed that the money came from unspent
campaign donations that Chen received when he ran for Taipei mayor
in 1994 and again in 1998 and for his presidential campaigns in 2000
and 2004. Until the law was changed in 2004, which was after his
last election, it was legal and not uncommon for politicians to
simply keep unspent campaign funds. According to Wu, that is what
they did. Some of the funds, she stated, also came from Chen's
income as a successful attorney before he became Taipei mayor, and
other funds were from gifts that Wu and Chen received from her
parents upon their marriage. There were also investment earnings.
Because of Wu's health considerations, a signed transcript was not
prepared for this first round of questions. In later questioning,
Wu revised her statement to say that all of the funds were unspent
campaign donations, consistent with what former President Chen has
asserted.

4. (SBU) According to media reports, Wu also told prosecutors the
money was sent overseas because local banks and investment firms
were reluctant to establish relationships with major political

TAIPEI 00001298 002 OF 004


figures. To get around this, she said that she used accounts in the
name of her brother (Wu Ching-mao) and subsequently her
daughter-in-law (Huang Jui-ching), under the advice of her asset
managers. These asset managers, she said, also recommended the
funds be managed overseas where there were more investment options
and potentially higher returns. Saying she had used a number of
different asset managers over the years, Wu claimed to have played a
passive role, merely reviewing regular statements submitted by the
managers.

5. (SBU) Wu reportedly told prosecutors that in Singapore, the
asset management accounts under her brother's name moved when the
asset manager transferred from one bank to another. Consequently,
when the manager transferred from ABN AMRO Bank to Standard
Chartered Bank and subsequently CLSA, the capital followed. After
son Chen Chih-chung married Huang Jui-ching, the former First Lady
placed the asset management accounts in her daughter-in-law Huang
Jui-ching's name. This was in February 2007. She stated that
foreign asset managers recommended by her son then moved the capital
from Singapore to Switzerland.

6. (SBU) Chen Chih-chung and Huang Jui-ching returned to Taiwan on
August 25 to tell their side of the story. Asserting to the press
that they were simple pawns in the process acting only under
instruction from the former First Lady, they were questioned by
prosecutors on the day of their arrival. Like former President Chen
and First Lady Wu, they have been barred from leaving Taiwan at this
time.
Chasing the Money - The Timeline
--------------------------------
7. (SBU) Although former President Chen's wife had been sending
money out of Taiwan into family accounts for a number of years, it
was a transaction in November 2007 which apparently first caught the
attention of the Swiss authorities. Reportedly, this led to the
Swiss government launching a money-laundering investigation on Mr.
Chen Chih-Chung and Ms. Huang Jui-ching, son and daughter-in-law of
former President Chen. The Swiss authorities eventually froze the
couple's bank accounts in Switzerland. To further the
investigation, the Swiss authorities made a request, via letter
dated June 16, 2008, to Taiwan's representative office in
Switzerland, for assistance in the case and identified transactions
that had come to their attention. According to the prosecutor's
office in Taiwan, the Swiss were well aware that the subjects of
their investigation were close relatives of former President Chen.

8. (SBU) The transactions that first attracted the attention of
the Swiss authorities reportedly occurred in late November 2007,
when Huang transferred US$10 million from Switzerland to the Cayman
Islands and then back again to Switzerland, using companies
controlled by her or her husband. The first transaction was in the
name of Bouchon Ltd, transferring US$10 million from an account in
Zurich held in the name of "Galahad Management" at Coutts, the
private banking arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland, to the Cayman
Islands. The money was then transferred back to Switzerland into an
account at Merrill Lynch. Galahad Management is owned by Chen,
former President Chen's son-in-law.

9. (SBU) Further investigation by the Swiss reportedly uncovered

TAIPEI 00001298 003 OF 004


other earlier transactions. According to the letter from the Swiss
authorities, Huang transferred about US$11 million from an account
at CLSA in Singapore to two Merrill Lynch accounts in Switzerland in
early 2007: US$10,945,000 on February 15, 2007, and US$140,200 on
March 2. In May 2007 Huang contracted Merrill Lynch to set up a
company called Bouchon Ltd. registered in the Cayman Islands and
owned by Huang. Her husband Chen Chih-chung was also given
authority to access the accounts.

Did I Forget To Mention That Note From the Caymans?
--------------------------------------------- ------
10. (SBU) Not only the Swiss raised questions about these
transactions. It has since come to light that as part of the Egmont
Group, an anti-money-laundering organization, the Cayman Islands had
notified the Money Laundering Prevention Center in Taiwan's Ministry
of Justice Investigation Bureau (MJIB) of unusual, large financial
transfers involving Chen and Huang in January 2008. This
information never left MJIB and was evidently not followed up with
further investigation. Former MJIB Director Yeh Sheng-mao claimed
variously that he had not passed on the information to the
prosecutors' office because he had been preoccupied with planning
for his retirement (in May of this year), and that he had actually
visited the Chief Prosecutor personally to discuss the matter. The
Chief Prosecutor denies that any such discussion occurred. On
August 28, Yeh Sheng-mao was indicted for withholding the
information he had received about the case.

So Is Anybody Guilty of Anything?
---------------------------------
11. (SBU) It is a common practice for Taiwan's rich and middle
class to send funds overseas for a variety of reasons, including
chasing higher returns, diversifying investments, and avoiding
taxes. Even so, it came as a shock to many of his supporters and
others that the family of former President Chen stashed US$21
million abroad. But is it illegal? It is true that he did not
disclose these assets as a government employee, which could subject
him to discipline by the Control Yuan, essentially Taiwan's civil
service system. Punishments for such lack of disclosure could
result in Chen receiving a fine only. It is also possible that
someone could be found guilty of using underground channels to remit
funds, but it is not yet clear if that was the case. There could
also be tax issues.

12. (SBU) Even though it may seem distasteful to the Taiwan public
that Chen chose to retain excess campaign contributions, if the
contributions were made before the law was changed in 2004, it does
not appear to be illegal. Since Chen's last election was for
president in 2004 and before the new law applied, he apparently
would be entitled to retain his campaign funds to use as he sees
fit. Chen has noted that he has already donated millions of dollars
in campaign funds to the DDP and to individual candidates.

13. (SBU) An important question is whether any of the money may
have come from bribes, embezzlement, kickbacks, or other illegal
activity and whether prosecutors can prove it. The Ministry of
Justice has already offered substantial cash rewards as well as
potential deals for anyone willing to come forward with information
about bribes or other illegal payments to former President Chen or

TAIPEI 00001298 004 OF 004


his associates. It may be difficult, however, to distinguish
between "bribes" and "donations," from businesses, which have a
tradition of giving to both government and opposition candidates.
The Chairman of Taiwan's Chamber of Commerce as well as the Chairman
of the Chinese National Federation of Industries, both pro-KMT
business leaders criticized the request for businesspeople to
surrender themselves and predicted that no one would comply.

14. (SBU) Others have charged that payments may have changed hands
during the second stage of financial reform when a number of
government banks were privatized in 2005.Many of the stock prices of
banks involved in those transactions fell with news of the
investigation. The Financial Supervisory Commission, which
regulates the financial services industry, has stated that no such
evidence has been discovered after a two-day initial investigation.
It is likely, however, that investigations are continuing.

Comment
-------
15. (SBU) The simple fact that the former president's family has
US$21 million in overseas accounts may be almost as important to the
Taiwan public as whether or not Chen or his family members actually
broke the law. Most people in Taiwan would readily acknowledge that
questionable dealings and undisclosed transfers were widespread in
the administrations that preceded Chen. However, in Taiwan's
developing democracy, voters are now less tolerant of such behavior
and expect public officials to be held accountable for their
actions. Many of Chen's original supporters may find it especially
difficult to accept that a president who was seen as promoting
Taiwan identity and led the attack on KMT corruption could allow his
family to transfer large sums overseas. It is too early to predict
where these investigations will lead -- more money? -- more
indictments? -- or dead ends? Just the same, public expectations
are rising and Taiwan politicians can no longer count on hiding
questionable activities.
WANG

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