Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Prosecutors may appeal release of Chen Shui-bian

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Special Investigation Panel (SIP) of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office is likely to change its mind and appeal the release of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who was freed without bail on Saturday morning after being held for 32 days.

SIP Spokesman Chen Yun-nan (陳雲南) had said on Saturday that the panel would not appeal, but yesterday said he had made the remark without consulting other prosecutors involved in the case.

State public Prosecutor-General Chen Tsung-ming (陳聰明) told reporters yesterday it was normal for a defendant to be released by a district court after an investigation was completed and the case was to be brought to court.

However, in Chen Shui-bian’s case, prosecutors said they were still probing allegations involving the former first family and the release of the former president could allow him to discuss these with other individuals.

The top prosecutor said “in principle prosecutors would appeal the case with the Taiwan High Court, but the final decision would be made in a prosecutors’ meeting scheduled for tomorrow [today].”

If prosecutors appealed the ruling with the Taiwan High Court, the high court could reject the request or order the district court to reconsider its decision.

Chen Shui-bian, who had been incarcerated since Nov. 12, was indicted on charges of embezzling government funds, money laundering and forgery along with 13 others, including his wife, son and daughter-in-law.

As prosecutors are seeking the “severest penalty,” legal experts believe Chen Shui-bian could face life in prison if convicted.

The former president has repeatedly denied all the charges against him, saying he is the victim of political persecution.

Prosecutors charged Chen Shui-bian and his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), with illegally receiving or embezzling NT$490 million (US$14.7 million), some of which was sent overseas.

Of that total, the indictment says, NT$104.15 million was embezzled from the “state affairs” fund during the former president’s eight years in office.

Prosecutors charge that more than NT$27 million of that was obtained by using inappropriate receipts to claim reimbursements from the fund.

The balance — more than NT$76 million — was claimed by former Presidential Office treasurer Chen Chen-hui (陳鎮慧) as “secret funds” from the state affairs fund and handed to Wu to pay for the family’s living expenses and other uses, the indictment says.

The former first family allegedly received another NT$100 million and US$6 million in kickbacks from a total payoff of US$11.98 million by a development company called “Dayu” to pave the way for the Hsinchu Science Park through the purchase of a plot of land in Taoyuan County from Dayu at a price prosecutors say was unreasonably high.

The bribe money was allegedly pocketed by James Lee (李界木), then-chief of the Hsinchu Science Park, and a friend of the former first family, Tsai Ming-che (蔡銘哲), who transferred it to accounts held by members of the former first family.

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