The Taiwan High Court yesterday rejected an appeal by former Taipei City councilor Lai Su-ju (賴素如) against her 2014 corruption conviction, but reduced her prison sentence to nine years in prison.
The Taipei District Court in 2014 found Lai guilty of corruption for seeking a NT$15 million (US$472,798 at current exchange rates) kickback from a consortium led by Taipei Gateway International Development Co (TGID, 太極雙星) in return for ensuring that it won the tender to develop the proposed Taipei Twin Towers (台北雙子星大樓) project near the Taipei Railway Station in October 2012 with a NT$70 billion bid.
“Lai held an important government post, but chose to receive bribes, which damaged the public’s trust in government officials to carry out their duties in a fair and equitable manner,” the original indictment said. “Since Lai has consistently refused to admit that she violated the law, the court should mete out a heavy punishment in this case.”
The Taipei District Court sentenced Lai to 10 years in prison.
However, in its ruling, the High Court said that sentencing a government official to more than nine years in prison for a corruption conviction is considered a “heavy punishment,” so it had therefore decided to reduce her sentence to nine years.
Its decision can be appealed.
An attorney, Lai holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in law from the Chinese Culture University.
She was a close aide to former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and had been a leading KMT politician in Taipei, serving four terms as a city councilor.
Lai, who was a member of the KMT Central Standing Committee, also worked as the director for Ma’s presidential campaign office in 2012 and was a legal counsel for the Presidential Office during Ma’s tenure.
Due to Lai’s close political ties with Ma, the High Court verdict is believed to have tainted Ma. It also left corruption stigma and unanswered questions surrounding former KMT Taipei mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who was in office when Lai took the bribe.
Yesterday’s court statement by presiding judge Chou Ying-wen (周盈文) said that Lai had brought disgrace to all public officials.
She has shown no remorse, tried to cover up her tracks and sought justification for her actions, the statement said.
During her High Court trial, Lai denied receiving any bribes and said the money she had received was a “political donation.”
However, the High Court said judicial investigators had put wiretaps on Cheng Hung-dao (程宏道) and Jia Er-ching (賈二慶), two of the main figures behind the TGID bid, where they were heard discussing the payment of a bribe with Lai, the court statement said.
Lai yesterday said that she deeply regrets the ruling.
She said she would defend her innocence with her life and that after receiving the official court ruling she would appeal to the Supreme Court.