Life in prison for Taiwan Ex-President Chen Shui-bian and wife

  Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian enters a police van at the Toucheng detention center to be escorted to the district court for the first day

Taiwan Former President

Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian enters a police van at the Toucheng detention center to be escorted to the district court for the first day

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former President Chen Shui-bian was sentenced to life in prison and a fine of NT$200 million as he was found guilty on six counts involving corruption and money laundering, the Taipei District Court ruled Friday.
The verdict came after more than a year of revelations and allegations about four cases of corruption and money laundering involving a total of NT$800 million and 14 defendants, including Chen and his closest relatives, former aides, government officials and business leaders.
In a verdict reportedly numbering 1,200 pages and weighing three kilograms, the judges found Chen guilty on six counts, issuing separate verdicts on each count which were then compiled to the life sentence and the fine. If Chen was unable to pay his fine, his assets might be impounded, reports said. The court also ruled he should lose his civil rights for life.
Chen’s wife Wu Shu-jen was also sentenced to life in prison and a NT$300 million fine in her cases, and also lost her civil rights for life.
Chen’s official attorney Tseng Te-jung told reporters he would appeal his sentences with the Taiwan High Court. Chen, the first-ever former Taiwan president to be convicted of corruption, has maintained his innocence, saying the judiciary was waging a politically motivated campaign of retribution against him.
Chen “caused damage to the nation because of his background and the office he held,” said Huang Chun-ming, the spokesman for the Taipei District Court. As the wife of the president, Wu also earned heavy sentences, Huang told a short news conference after the verdict.
Chen and Wu each received life sentences for the misuse of NT$104 million from the special presidential state affairs fund, and lower sentences for a variety of other charges. Chen was sentenced to eight years for money laundering, Wu to 18 years.
Their son Chen Chih-chung was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and a NT$150 million fine for money laundering. His wife Huang Jui-ching was sentenced to one year and eight months and a NT$150million fine, but she would be put on probation for five years if she paid a NT$200 million fine, reports said.
Wu’s brother Wu Ching-mao and his wife Chen Chun-ying were each sentenced to two years suspended for five years. They were also fined NT$3 million each. The former First Lady’s brother said he was “happy” with his verdict in a phone interview with cable station CTI, though his wife expressed concern about the fines.
A heavy sentence was issued against the ex-president’s former close adviser Ma Yung-cheng, who received 20 years in prison and lost his civil rights for ten years. Lin Te-shun, another ex-aide, was sentenced to 16 years.
Former presidential cashier Chen Chen-hui did not receive any sentences because of her cooperation with prosecutors during the investigation and the trial. She admitted guilt on five charges, the court said.
Former Hsinchu Science Park Director James Lee was sentenced to six years in prison for accepting NT$30 million in bribes in the sale of a plot of private land in Lungtan, Taoyuan County. Chen and Wu received 20-year sentences each for allegedly accepting a total of NT$273 million in the deal.
In the Nangang Exhibition Hall case, businessman Kuo Chuan-ching received three months in jail, reduced from six months, while his civil rights would be suspended for one year. Kuo allegedly handed over a total of NT$90 million in bribes to a friend of the former First Family in exchange for a list of jury members in charge of evaluating the construction project. Kuo wanted the list so he could influence the panel members to turn the bid in his company’s favor, reports said. The former First Lady was sentenced to 14 years for the Nangang deal, for which Chen was not indicted.
Wu family friend Tsai Ming-che was to be put on probation for five years after being sentenced to two years and two months with a NT$3 million fine. His brother Tsai Ming-chieh received two years and a NT$10 million fine. Both allegedly played roles as go-betweens in the handling of bribes and in money laundering.
Their sister Tsai Mei-li was also indicted, but the court issued no sentence for her Friday, reportedly because she was terminally ill with cancer, media reports said.
In addition to issuing the verdicts, the Taipei District Court on Friday also referred several other suspects to prosecutors for new investigations.
Chen Chih-chung, his sister Chen Hsing-yu and her husband Chao Chien-ming, three family friends and two former Presidential Office secretaries were all involved in the misuse of the presidential funds, the court reportedly said.
In the Lungtan land deal, James Lee should be investigated for perjury as he told the court he had informed Wu Shu-jen of the deal but not the ex-president, the court said. Former National Science Council Chairman Wei Che-ho was also suspected of perjury, and Taiwan Cement Chairman Leslie Koo should be investigated for fraud and perjury in the case. It was Koo who sold the plot of land to the government to help one of his ailing companies out of a tight spot.
The court failed to demand action Friday against another member of the influential Koo family, former Chinatrust Financial Holding Vice Chairman Jeffrey Koo Junior, despite having paid Chen an estimated NT$290 million, reports said.
On Friday, ex-President Chen himself refused to be present at the verdict, staying at the Taipei Detention Center in Tucheng, Taipei County, where he was allowed to watch a small television set, reports said. A prison official described his condition as “normal.” None of the other defendants was in court either.
Because the court allowed Chen to stay in prison, it would not immediately hold a session to rule on whether he could be released with or without bail. A decision will have to be reached before his current period of custody as a suspect ends on September 25. Media reports said the decision, to be issued by the Taiwan High Court, would not come earlier than next week.
The former president’s custody as a suspect since December 30 has been experienced by many as unfair, but the court repeatedly sided with prosecutors’ arguments that he posed a flight risk and could influence witnesses and defendants.
Hundreds of Chen supporters appeared outside the court during the day to await the verdict. They tied yellow ribbons and yellow balloons to the barricades erected by police, and conducted a mock trial of President Ma Ying-jeou. Scuffles broke out when members of a radical pro-unification group appeared in the neighborhood.
An estimated 120 police were mobilized to stop further clashes.
Supporters have threatened massive action if Chen is forced to stay in prison after 256 days or more than eight consecutive months. Taipei DPP chief Huang Ching-lin, a staunch Chen supporter, compared the eventual protests against the ex-president’s detention to massive rallies in Thailand last year by yellow-shirted anti-government protesters.
According to media reports, Chen argued in a plea that there might have been problems with the handling of political donations and with his management of family affairs. He bore “social, cultural guilt,” but investigators found no evidence of any crime, so he was not guilty in a legal sense, the text said.
In a response to Friday’s verdicts, the Presidential Office said it would not comment on individual cases, as it respected the judiciary.
In verdicts widely seen as a precursor to Friday’s rulings, the Taipei District Court on September 1 sentenced the former First Lady to one year in prison for encouraging her children and son-in-law to commit perjury, while her son Chen Chih-chung, daughter Chen Hsing-yu and son-in-law Chao Chien-ming received one year each for the perjury.
On the same day, former Taipei 101 Chairwoman Diana Chen was sentenced to one year and six months in jail for perjury in a case involving a payment of NT$10 million to Wu. The businesswoman said the money was a political donation for the Democratic Progressive Party, but the court ruled it was a payment to obtain a top job at a securities house.