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Taiwan president denies embezzlement, pledges to resign if first lady convicted

[JURIST] Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian [official website, English version; BBC profile] delivered a nationally-televised address Sunday denying allegations that he and first lady Wu Shu-chen have been embezzling money from state funds and pledging to resign if his wife is found guilty on embezzlement, forgery, and perjury charges [JURIST report] laid against her Friday. The address was Chen's first public response to the embezzlement accusations since his wife was indicted. Chen and Wu allegedly embezzled NT$14.8 million dollars ($450,000 USD) from the state affairs budget between 2002 and 2006 by using 712 receipts obtained by the first lady through personal acquaintances. Chen has repeatedly denied the charges of embezzlement, saying that the funds reimbursed with the collected receipts were used for classified diplomatic purposes.

Under Article 52 of the Taiwanese constitution [text] Chen is immune from criminal prosecution with the exception of acts of treason or rebellion while serving in office. The largest opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT) [party website; Global Security backgrounder], issued an ultimatum following Wu's indictment demanding Chen resign within 48-hours or face a legislative motion calling for a recall referendum. Chen has faced two unsuccessful recall motions [JURIST report], both of which failed to garner the necessary two-thirds support in the 225-member legislature. Previous motions were supported by the KMT, the People First Party (PFP) [party website; Global Security backgrounder] and independent legislators. Since the indictment, however, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) [party website; Global Security backgrounder] has broke from coalition lines and indicated support for future recall motions [China Times report]. AP has more. China Times has local coverage.

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