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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 10:36 GMT
Taiwan mayor quizzed over fund
By Caroline Gluck
BBC News, Taipei

Ma Ying-jeou and the adopted, in archive picture
Mr Ma is accused misusing funds for an adopted stray dog
Prosecutors in Taiwan have questioned Taipei's mayor, Ma Ying-jeou, in connection with allegations that he misused a special allowance fund.

It is the latest twist in a series of recent political scandals.

Mr Ma, who is also chairman of the opposition Kuomintang Party, has denied embezzling funds.

Members of his party say the move is an attempt by the ruling party to divert attention away from a graft scandal surrounding President Chen Shui-bian.

Ma Ying-jeou - the Kuomintang Party's presidential candidate for 2008, was questioned by prosecutors at the Taiwan High Court, as a witness in the case brought by several legislators from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

They accused Mr Ma of using money from his special mayoral allowance fund to pay for the medical fees for a homeless dog that he adopted seven years ago.

They also alleged that he embezzled half of his special monthly allowance by depositing the funds into this personal account.

Officials from Taipei city government said that the medical costs for the stray dog were originally billed to the city, but that Mr Ma - a former minister of justice - had repaid the amount, which came to about $300.

Mr Ma had earlier told reporters that he had followed legal procedures in the handling of his special expense fund, and that government auditors had found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Graft charges

Members of the Kuomintang Party have called the move an attempt by the DPP to try to divert public attention away from President Chen.

Mr Chen's wife and three officials were formally indicted for embezzling nearly $500,000 from state funds earlier this month.

Prosecutors said Mr Chen himself could be indicted when he leaves office, after his immunity from prosecution lapses.

Some opposition lawmakers say they are planning to lodge legal charges against senior officials from the ruling party, arguing that they had also misused expense accounts when they were county and city chiefs.

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