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Democratic Fund-Raiser Is New Focus of Hearings

Associated Press
Tuesday, July 29, 1997; Page A04

Several times within days of receiving large wire transfers from the Bank of China, fund-raiser Charles Yah Lin Trie made donations to the Democratic Party or reimbursed other donors, Senate documents show.

In all, investigators have evidence that Trie received $905,000 wired from Asia by his overseas business partner, Ng Lap Seng, in 1995 and 1996 while Trie was raising money for the Democratic Party and President Clinton's legal defense fund.

The disclosures come as the Senate hearings into fund-raising abuses begin their fourth week today by turning attention to Trie, a Clinton friend who ran a trading company.

In one example, two women donated "front money" under their names last year to a Democratic fund-raiser featuring Clinton and were reimbursed from a Trie account the same day, according to one memo written by investigators.

Money had been wired to Trie's Washington account five days earlier, according to the documents obtained by the Associated Press.

The documents indicated that the U.S. bank accounts used for donations and reimbursements would not have covered those checks without the overseas transfers.

It was not known whether Trie might have had legitimate business deals and could account for the transfers. However, investigators said they have not found any legitimate source of money for Trie from his U.S. business operations, which could have legally been used for political donations.

Federal law prohibits donors from disguising contributions in the name of others and bars American companies from using any money they earned overseas to make a U.S. political donation.

The money that Trie raised for the party and the defense fund has been returned in recent months because of suspicions about its origins.

Trie, who left for China after his fund-raising stirred controversy, has not yet cooperated with the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee investigation, although investigators have pieced together transactions from subpoenaed bank records.

One chart prepared by Senate investigators states that on Feb. 14, 1996, just under $150,000 was transferred by wire from San Kin Yip Holding Co. Ltd. – a Macao-based venture of Trie and Ng Lap Seng – from the Bank of China in Hong Kong to a Trie bank account in Washington.

A Senate investigative memo said Xiping Wang and Yue Chu, who were granted immunity from prosecution and are scheduled to testify this week, were asked by Ng to handle "front money" for donations.

"Ng Lap Seng said he wanted to attend a DNC function so that he could meet Clinton but was unable to purchase a ticket to the event himself because he was a non-citizen and non-resident," the memo said.

Ng told the women he "would reimburse them" if they contributed, the memo said.

Xiping Wang contributed a $5,000 check to the Democratic National Committee on Feb. 19, 1996, and was reimbursed from Trie's Washington account the same day. Yue Chu made contributions of $7,500 and $12,500 on Feb. 19 and was reimbursed the same day.

The donations were made at a gala dinner for Asian American donors in Washington attended by Clinton that netted $1.1 million.

Meanwhile, new details emerged Monday about the event that first thrust Trie, an Arkansas restaurateur-turned-global-businessman, into national headlines: his delivery of $640,000 in donations to Clinton's defense fund.

In a deposition obtained by the Associated Press, the lawyer who oversaw the trust fund and the return of Trie's donations described how Trie delivered the first batch of money from a Buddhist sect in early 1996.

"What was your reaction when this mound of checks and money orders came out of the envelope?" Michael Cardozo was asked.

"I wished there were curtains on the glass conference room," Cardozo responded.

He said he became suspicious quickly because some of the checks, allegedly from different donors, bore similar handwriting. After a review, the defense fund decided to return all the money Trie delivered in two visits.

Cardozo's deposition also discloses that Trie made a third, previously undisclosed visit to the fund in May 1996 to say he was bringing in another $150,000. The offer was rejected because Cardozo already had too many suspicions about the earlier money.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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