Taiwan vice president Lu denies graft charges

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TAIPEI, Nov 19 (Reuters) Taiwan Vice President Annette Lu denied charges today that she misused a special allowance and hit out at what she called an inconsistent justice system.

Taiwan prosecutors, under pressure to root out corruption, have taken on a series of public figures over the past two years.

In September, the Supreme Court prosecutor's office charged Lu and her some of her staff with improper use of T.6 million 173,000 dollars from a fund intended for discretionary use.

Lu faces one count of graft and one of fabricating receipts.

The charges came about a year after prosecutors indicted President Chen Shui-bian's wife, Wu Shu-chen, and presidential office aides for corruption involving the alleged improper spending of T.8 million in special state affairs funds.

Before entering court, Lu read a statement to reporters, complaining that Taiwan's justice system had inconsistently handled special allowance cases.

''The standards of justice are not the same,'' said Lu as a crowd of supporters demonstrated outside. ''We hope the court can return justice to this historical collective karma.'' Thousands of Taiwan officials use discretionary funds similar to the vice-president's allowance. Some funds require only limited filing of receipts. Questionable use of the allowances has set off a rash of indictments over the past year.

In September, Frank Hsieh, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate for the 2008 presidential election, was cleared of allegations he misused funds when he was mayor of the island's second biggest city.

The prosecution also cleared his running mate, Su Tseng-chang, of similar allegations, citing insufficient evidence in both cases.

Hsieh is in a tight race for the presidency with Ma Ying-jeou, former chairman of the opposition Nationalist Party, or KMT. Ma was charged with corruption in February after Hsieh's party recommended a probe, but he was later cleared.

Reuters SKB VP0938

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