Prosecutors in Taiwan have indicted Vice President Annette Lu and two other key ruling party figures on charges of corruption and fraud. However, despite concern among leaders of Lu's Democratic Progressive Party, the party's 2008 presidential candidate, Frank Hsieh, was not charged. Jacques van Wersch reports from Taipei.
Investigators charge that Vice President Annette Lu used false receipts to claim more than $170,000 from a discretionary fund between December 2000 and May 2006.
A High Court prosecutor announced the indictments Friday night. Two other heavyweights from the governing Democratic Progressive Party were also charged, along with eight aides.
Lu says the news struck her like "a bolt from the blue." She told reporters late Friday that she did not give her subordinates orders to falsify expense reports.
"It says here that according to office colleagues' testimony, there wasn't anyone - the prosecutor said this himself - not a single person said I gave the order," she said. "Since the evidence shows that not a single person said I gave orders, how could they suddenly say in the indictment that I gave them orders?"
The office of President Chen Shui-bian released a statement after the indictments were announced, vouching for the innocence of Lu, as well as Mark Chen, the Presidential Office secretary-general, and DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun.
It is standard practice for top government officials at the local and national levels in Taiwan to be given discretionary funds for expenditures related to their offices. There have been several indictments and prosecutions lately dealing with the alleged misuse of these funds.
President Chen himself been investigated on corruption charges in connection with a special state allowance, but he enjoys presidential immunity from prosecution. His wife and top aides have also been indicted, and their trial is in progress.
DPP officials have expressed concern recently that their candidate for president, Frank Hsieh, would also be indicted. But prosecutors Friday said they had found no irregularities in Hsieh's use of his special allowances, either while he was mayor of the southern city of Kaohsiung, or while he was premier.
Mr. Hsieh's running mate, Su Tseng-chang, also escaped indictment. The presidential election is expected to be held early next year.
Last month, the presidential candidate of the opposition Nationalist Party, Ma Ying-jeou, was found innocent of wrongdoing in connection with his special allowance when he was mayor of Taipei. Prosecutors are appealing the verdict in that case.