TAIPEI (AFP) — Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian has been barred from leaving the island and his office raided on money-laundering allegations implicating him and his family, officials said Sunday.
The coast guard confirmed that Chen on Saturday had been barred by prosecutors from leaving the territory which he led for eight years.
"We received the order from the special investigation unit around 9:20 pm last night saying former president Chen was barred from leaving the country," Coast Guard Administration spokesman Hsieh Ching-chin told AFP.
The move came after prosecutors separately searched Chen's office and residence in Taipei.
"We took away accounting books and computers which could help with clarifying the case," Chu Chao-liang, spokesman for the special investigation unit, told reporters.
Chen and his wife Wu Shu-chen were questioned Saturday by prosecutors over the money laundering charges against their family.
Chu said prosecutors did not use warrants as they were cooperative while the wheelchair-bound Wu wore a cast and appeared to be in poor health.
Wu claimed that the overseas funds came from her family, Chen's past income as a lawyer, his political donations and their investment proceeds, local newspapers said.
Taiwan launched a probe into the money laundering claims following similar moves by Swiss authorities.
Copies of Swiss documents obtained by Kuomintang lawmaker Hung Hsiu-chu showed that Chen's son Chen Chih-chung and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching transferred 31 million US dollars to her Swiss bank accounts in 2007.
The ex-leader had already been questioned on Friday but requested "leaves of absence" for the young couple, whom he said were in the US for academic studies, Chu said.
Chen admitted that his wife had wired abroad 20 million US dollars from his past campaign funds, saying she had done so without his knowledge.
He has denied money laundering.
However, nearly 68 percent of 1,012 people polled Saturday by the China Times said they did not trust Chen's arguments.
As many respondents said the image of the pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had been severely tarnished although Chen quit the party one day after the scandal surfaced. The party was still reeling from its crushing defeat in the March presidential election and January parliamentary polls.
In an interview with a local cable news network Saturday, a heart-broken Ng Chiau-tong, a former advisor to Chen, called his former boss the "shame of Taiwan."
Chen, who rose to power with the nickname "Son of Taiwan" is already under investigation for allegedly embezzling 14.8 million Taiwan dollars (480,500 US) in special expenses from the government while he was president, and his wife is on trial for corruption and document forgery in the same case.
Chen has admitted using false receipts to claim money from the state, but insisted those funds were used for "secret diplomatic missions" and not his personal benefit.
Nevertheless, prosecutors found that at least 1.5 million Taiwan dollars had been spent on diamond rings and other luxury items for his wife.
A string of corruption scandals implicating Chen, his family and top DPP officials has tarnished the party's image and played a part in its defeat in the March presidential vote.
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