Fri, Jan 09, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Court upholds verdicts on Kaohsiung councilors

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Seven Kaohsiung City councilors will have to leave their posts within three weeks after a court yesterday upheld their convictions related to the 2002 vote-buying scandal in the election of council Speaker Chu An-hsiung (朱安雄).

The Taiwan High Court Kaohsiung branch also overturned a 24-month sentence against Vice Speaker Tsai Sung-hsiung (蔡松雄) and rejected a prosecution appeal against Councilor Lee Chiao-ju (李喬如), who had been found innocent by the district court.

Prosecutors last year indicted 34 councilors for accepting NT$5 million each from Chu to vote for him in the December 2002 speakership election. Of the indicted councilors, 24 were convicted.

Chu was sentenced to 42 months in prison for vote-buying in November, but he had already fled the country after being convicted of paying voters NT$500 each in a city council election earlier in December.

The court yesterday upheld the 20-month sentence for councillor Yang Min-lang (楊敏郎), and six-month sentences for Liu Shao-chun (劉少春), Chen Yun-lung (陳雲龍), Wu Lin Shu-min (吳林淑敏), Tseng Chang-fa (曾長發) and Jan Yung-lung (詹永龍).

The court reduced Kao Tzeng-ying's (高宗英) 12-month sentence to six months.

Huang Fang-jen (黃芳仁), who has already resigned from the council, had his sentenced reduced from eight months to six months.

Neither the councilors nor prosecutors may appeal these sentences, although the councilors can pay NT$300 per day in lieu of going to prison.

As it takes 10 days to deliver the verdicts, the councilors will have to give up their posts within the next three weeks.

Tsai had been convicted on two charges -- taking a bribe and asking colleagues to do the same. The court yesterday found him innocent of the charges, but left the option open to prosecutors to appeal the verdict on the second charge.

"The judges did not discover sufficient evidence to prove that Tsai accepted the bribe money. As a result, they decided to drop the charges against him," said Wang Kwang-chao (王光照), the high court's spokesman.

Wang also said that the judges had not considered a promise by prosecutors to suspend the sentences of any councilors who admitted taking bribes.

"The judges affirmed their [the councilors'] hard work for their voters during their terms as Kaohsiung City councilors. However, the judges also believed that their accepting the bribes has brought disgrace to their titles and their voters," Wang said.

The convictions increase the likelihood that Kaohsiung will have to hold city council elections this year. If more than 14 councilors leave their posts, an election must be held. Ten will have left their posts once the seven councilors leave.

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