Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday maintained his innocence during the first of three pre-trial hearings on charges of corruption and money laundering.
“I am totally innocent and there is absolutely no way I would accept such charges and insults,” Chen said.
The three-day pre-trial session at the Taipei District Court set the stage for the trial, which is expected to last for months.
The district court will summon other defendants, including Chen’s son and daughter-in-law, for pre-trial hearings today and tomorrow.
During the hearing, prosecutors charged Chen, who stands accused of four counts of corruption and money laundering, with additional charges of “extorting property and demanding donations using influence” and “profiteering” in a land procurement deal in Lungtan, Taoyuan County, in 2004.
The prosecutors said Chen used his influence as president to push the government to buy the land for a science park after his wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), accepted bribes from the landowner.
Chen and Wu were indicted last month for accepting an estimated NT$300 million (US$8.9 million) in bribes in connection with the deal.
Chen said yesterday the addition of two charges reflected the fact that he was not guilty.
“Why did they need to add these two charges? It is because they know that the initial charges were too weak to convict me,” Chen said. “For the Lungtan case, I was actually trying to help boost the nation’s economy. How can that be called corruption?”
“No [other defendants] have ever named me as bribe recipient and I don’t know why I was charged with taking bribes,” he told the court.
The session, heard by Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) and judges Hsu Chien-hui (徐千惠) and Wu Ding-ya (吳定亞), began at 9:30am.
Chen’s defense team — Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍), Hung Kuei-san and Shih Yi-ling (石宜琳) — yesterday said they had not been given sufficient time to prepare Chen’s defense.
Tsai later postponed the remaining part of yesterday’s hearing and a hearing scheduled for tomorrow to Feb. 24.
Chen, 58, was president from 2000 until May 2008. He has said he is a victim of political persecution by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Also charged in the same case are three of Chen’s former aides and eight other associates and relatives.