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Johnny Chung testifies in US fund-raising case

Washington, May 12: Former Democrat fundraiser Joh-nny Chung testified on Tuesday that although he flouted US laws, he was playing by lon...

Washington, May 12: Former Democrat fundraiser Joh-nny Chung testified on Tuesday that although he flouted US laws, he was playing by long-established rules when he acted as a go-between for Chinese officials. “The system is set up so that if you donate money, you can participate,” Chung told a meeting of the house committee on government reform and oversight. Chung denied that he was a agent working to influence US elections.

He gave details of numerous contacts in which he acted as a go-between for high-ranking Chinese bureaucrats and Washington officials in exchange for campaign contributions.

The Taiwanese-born businessman said that in 1996 he met General Ji Shengde, the then head of China’s military intelligence, in a hotel basement in Hong Kong. “We like your President very much. We would like to see him re-elected,” Ji told Chung.

Chung said the money was transferred to an account in his name, but was not used for Clinton’s re-election bid. The FBI has been able to trace only 20,000 dollarsto the Democratic National Committee, according to The Washington Post, which cited Senate Intelligence Committee documents showing that most of the money went for Chung’s personal use, including mortgage payments.

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Throughout his testimony, Chung portrayed himself as a victim of a campaign finance system run amuck. “Keep in mind that I did not create this system, you did,” he said. While recounting his beginnings as a fundraiser, he said: “It was at a 1994 fundraiser and birthday party for then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton that I first began to realise the value and importance that political donations could have on my ability to further my business contacts,” Chung testified.

He said he received some two million dollars from business dealings in China between 1994 and 1996, and that about 20 per cent of it was given to political causes.

Chung said that since the scandal became public, Democratic party leaders have tried to besmirch his reputation to hide their own wrongdoing.

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“I think theyshould be asha-med of themselves for attempting to jump on me and hide the fact that they aggressively solicited me for money,” he said.

First published on: 13-05-1999 at 12:00:00 am
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