The Taipei District Court yesterday sentenced former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his wife to life in prison after handing down a guilty verdict in the graft trial against the former first couple and 11 co-defendants.
The verdict makes Chen the first former president in the country’s history to be indicted and convicted.
Presiding Judge Tsai Shou-hsun (蔡守訓) began reading from the court’s 1,000-page verdict at 4pm. Chen received a life sentence, a fine of NT$200 million (US$6.1 million) and had his civil rights annulled for life for violating the Punishment of Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例), Money Laundering Control Act (洗錢防制法) and Criminal Code (刑法).
Chen chose not to attend yesterday’s proceedings. Lee Ta-chu (李大竹), deputy warden at the Taipei Detention Center, where Chen has been imprisoned since Dec. 30 last year, said that the former president went about his daily activities as usual.
Lee said the former president was calm after finding out about his sentence through TV news.
The court ruled that Chen, during his term as president, “for selfish reasons … used his power to create wealth while putting aside integrity and loyalty to the country.”
The ruling states that as president, Chen should have known that “if one person in power developed a greed for the people’s money, the entire country would devolve into chaos.”
The court found Chen and his wife guilty of embezzlement and taking bribes totaling NT$800 million, some of which was laundered overseas through Swiss bank accounts and paper companies.
Former first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) was given a life sentence, a fine of NT$300 million and also had her civil rights annulled for life. The ruling states that although the court was sympathetic toward her disability, as a former legislator Wu “knows the country’s money comes from its hardworking people,” yet “used her position countless times to obtain large amounts of public funds to be used for personal expenses.”
However, because Wu has been in a wheelchair since an incident in 1985 and needs full-time care, she might be allowed to serve out her sentence in an alternative way, such as house arrest.
In the money laundering case, Chen Shui-bian’s son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), was sentenced to two years and six months, as well as a fine of NT$150 million, for helping his parents wire money to overseas bank accounts.
Chen Shui-bian’s daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching (黃睿靚), was sentenced to one year and eight months and fined NT$150 million on money laundering charges.
Speaking briefly to reporters after hearing the verdict, Chen Shui-bian’s court-appointed attorney Tseng Te-rong (曾德榮) said he found the life sentence “rather heavy,” but declined to comment further, saying that he would first need to read through the entire ruling.
Cheng Wen-lung (鄭文龍), a former attorney for Chen Shui-bian, said the ruling was a “political ruling” because the court handed down a guilty verdict when there was no proof Chen Shui-bian was guilty.
Lin Chih-hung (林志忠), an attorney for the former first lady, said the sentence was too heavy and would advise her to appeal the ruling.
Yeh Ta-hui (葉大慧), an attorney for Chen Chih-chung and his wife, said he would discuss whether to appeal the ruling after he receives a copy of it. However, Yeh said that even if they decided to appeal, the young couple would not change their decision to plead guilty in hopes of leniency.