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Ex-minister begins serving jail term, mood 'stable'

Ex-minister begins serving jail term, mood 'stable'

Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) Former Minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi began her eight-year sentence for corruption Wednesday at Taoyuan Women's Prison, after the Supreme Court upheld a sentence handed down by the High Court. Accompanied by her attorney and supporters, Kuo said she considered herself a "political prisoner," though her conviction was for accepting bribes while in office. She was transported to the prison along with other prisoners and given prisoner number 347. Yu Shu-hua, a deputy warden at the prison, said Kuo appeared to be in a stable mood and was not agitated when being taken into the prison. Kuo will be offered the counseling services available to new inmates to help them acclimatize to prison life, Yu added. The High Court found Kuo guilty of taking US$20,000 in bribe money in 2006 during her term as transportation minister under the Democratic Progressive Party administration of then-President Chen Shui-bian. The bribe came from members of the Nan Ren Hu Group, a large industrial conglomerate with close connections to the ruling Kuomintang, in exchange for being awarded a contract to perform renovations at Taipei Railway Station. The money was found hidden in a tea container. Two of the accused in the Nan Ren Hu Group, Lee Ching-po and Lee Tsung-hsien, were not charged due to insufficient evidence. Kuo was originally acquitted in separate trials in 2009 and 2010 because while she had pocketed the money from Nan Ren Hu, the conglomerate did not take part in the project's bidding process and the court found no evidence of undue influence on its part. The acquittal was overturned last year after prosecutors appealed to the High Court based on the testimony of a single witness, Lee Tsung-hsien, son of Lee Ching-po, who is the chairman of Nan Ren Hu Group. Lee Tsung-hsien had initially testified on behalf of his father that he had delivered the equivalent of US$20,000 in cash packed in two iron tea boxes to the then-minister. However, he later revoked his testimony. Still, the High Court found Kuo guilty because she instructed the Taiwan Railway Administration, through her secretary, to "take a new look at" a renovation and shop-rental project in which Lee had shown an interest. (By Chiu Chun-chin and Y.L. Kao)