The U.S. government has filed civil forfeiture complaints seeking to expropriate two houses in New York and Virginia owned by Taiwan's former first family. They are suspected of being bought with money received as bribes by former President Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen during Chen's time in office from 2000 to 2008.
The U.S. legal action may have come as a surprise to many local people. U.S. judicial authorities said the case serves as a warning to corrupt foreign officials who abuse their power for personal financial gain and then attempt to place those funds in the U.S.
According to the U.S. complaints, the former first couple moved the ill-gotten funds from Taiwan via a very complicated roadmap using shell companies and overseas bank accounts controlled by their son and his wife.
Chen and Wu were both given life sentences last year after being convicted of bribery, embezzlement and money laundering. The Taiwan High Court last month reduced their sentences to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors appealed the latest ruling on July 1.
The former first couple definitely never expected the latest twist in the development of their cases. But in fact, eliminating official corruption and cross-border money laundering has become a major target of international cooperation in fighting crime since the United Nations passed a convention against corruption in 2006.
In April this year, former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was extradited from the U.S. to France to stand trial for allegedly buying a property in Paris with money from bribes that ended up in French bank accounts through money laundering.
The latest U.S. move reminds local officials that political integrity is a universal ethical norm and that abusing power for personal gain is banned by all countries around the world. The Chen family should no longer distort judicial probes into graft charges against it as political persecution. (Editorial abstract -- July 18, 2010.) (By Sofia Wu)