Court set to rule on Ma corruption case

Taiwan's High Court is set to rule today on whether opposition presidential candidate Ma Ying-Jeou is guilty of corruption in a case that could have a major impact on next year's election.
If Ma is convicted he could be barred from standing in the March presidential election, which he is tipped to win.
He was chairman of the Kuomintang party until he resigned following his indictment but was cleared of misusing government expenses by a lower court earlier this year.
However, prosecutors later appealed the verdict and added a new charge of breach of trust. Uncertainty over the case has caused nervousness on financial markets in recent days.
"A number of investors are very worried that Ma could be convicted by the high court and accordingly lose his qualification as a presidential candidate," said Bentham Hung, an analyst from Mega Wealth International Management Consultant Company.
Ma is accused of misusing more than NT$11 million (US$330,000) in expenses during his time as Taipei mayor from 1998 to 2006.
He has denied the charges, insisting he acted in the same manner as 6,500 other government officials entitled to special expenses.
Ma would be automatically disqualified if the High Court were to convict him of breach of trust. He would also be barred from running if he is found guilty of corruption and sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.
However, if he is convicted of corruption and given any more lenient sentence than 10 years in jail, Ma would be able to appeal the verdict to the island's Supreme Court and could still take part in the polls.
"We've faith in his innocence," KMT spokesman Su Chun-pin told Agence France-Presse, adding that Ma would not be in court to hear the verdict.
Current President Chen Shui-bian(陳水扁)from the DPP is barred from standing because he has already served two four-year terms.
Political science professor Wu Tung-yeh of National Chengchi University warned that if Ma was disqualified his supporters could take to the streets of the island, which lies off the southeastern coast of rival China.
"The nation's fate is in the hands of the three High Court judges," he said.
Lai Yi-chung, a senior DPP official, said Ma's image would be tainted if he were found guilty by the High Court but still allowed to run for president.
"I estimate that around three to five percent of the voters still undecided on the presidential vote could be affected by such a result," he said.
"The impact could be critical to the election, considering the tight race between Ma and Hsieh."

Updated : 2021-04-17 01:25 GMT+08:00