A Taiwanese ruling party lawmaker on Thursday accused ex-president Chen Shui-bian of embezzling diplomatic funds meant to go to North Korea, in the latest twist in a long-running corruption probe.
Chiu Yi, who was one of the first politicians to accuse Chen of involvement in money laundering and embezzlement, cited Taiwanese diplomatic sources for his claim.
"According to my sources half the TWD300 million (Dh33m) intended for North Korea was embezzled" by Chen, the Kuomintang legislator told reporters without elaborating.
The Apple Daily reported onThursday that prosecutors had begun investigating claims that Chen might have pocketed TWD300 million of financial aid in 2004 and 2005 in exchange for North Korea handling the island's nuclear wastes.
The daily, which did not name its sources, alleged the cash would be given to a high-ranking North Korean official through a contact who promised to help Taipei set up a "direct communication channel" with Kim Jong-Il's regime.
However, Taiwan did not establish any form of contact with North Korea nor send its nuclear waste to the communist state after the foreign ministry paid the money, the report said.
Self-ruled Taiwan is formally recognised by only 23 countries and does not have diplomatic ties with North Korea.
In response, Taiwanese prosecutors said they had received no information on any alleged aid embezzlement.
Chen is currently in custody pending trial on charges of embezzling public funds, laundering money and taking bribes. He faces life in jail if convicted on all counts.