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Taiwan opposition presidential candidate awaits verdict on corruption case

Taiwan opposition presidential candidate awaits verdict on corruption case

Taiwanese presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou expressed confidence Thursday that Taiwan's High Court would uphold a lower court's decision and find him not guilty on corruption charges.
Friday's decision will be closely watched by both Ma's main opposition Nationalists and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party because of its critical importance for next March's presidential race.
If Ma is found guilty, he faces a minimum sentence of seven years' jail. A sentence of 10 years or more would force him to drop out of the contest, likely causing widespread political upheaval on this island of 23 million people, where passions are already running high ahead of the March vote.
But speaking before supporters Thursday, Ma played down the chances that the lower court's verdict might be overturned.
"I am confident of my integrity and have expectations that justice will prevail," he said.
Ma was widely known for his clean-cut image before DPP lawmakers pressed prosecutors to investigate graft allegations against him earlier this year.
In August, a district court found Ma not guilty of diverting 11 million New Taiwan dollars (US$333,000) of public money into his private account while serving as mayor of Taipei between 1998 and 2006. Judges accepted Ma's argument that Taiwanese law recognized the fund as an official subsidy, but prosecutors appealed the decision, sending the case to the High Court.
Ma always maintained that one of the main charges against him _ using discretionary funds without providing detailed accounting _ had long been common practice among Taiwanese municipal leaders and other government officials.
Rather than pocketing the funds, he said, he used them to make donations to charity.
Many Taiwanese analysts believe Ma's acquittal will be upheld by the High Court.
Several leading politicians face charges similar to Ma's. Vice President Annette Lu was charged in September of using false receipts to collect reimbursements. She has pleaded not guilty.


Updated : 2021-05-13 00:37 GMT+08:00