Ex-gangster to face trial in Cambodia

PLEADING IGNORANCE: The lawyer for Chen Chi-li says he plans to argue that he had no knowledge of the 13 illegal weapons that were found at his home

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Aug 08, 2001 - Page 1

Former Bamboo Union gang leader Chen Chi-li (陳啟禮) is scheduled to face a Cambodian trial court tomorrow and will likely be expelled from the country, his lawyer told the Taipei Times yesterday.

Kar Savuth said yesterday that though the court was likely to expel Chen from the country, he would be allowed time to sell his possessions.

Savuth said the 59-year-old Chen was still in possession of his property and assets in Cambodia.

Media reports earlier had said Cambodian police had confiscated Chen's properties and assets, including his luxurious Phnom Penh residence.

Savuth said Chen -- charged with illegal possession of firearms and involvement in organized crime -- would "plead ignorance" in tomorrow's court proceedings.

The lawyer said that police had found Chen in possession of roughly 20 firearms.

Savuth said four were rifles that were legally registered, while another three belonged to police.

"As for the remaining illegal 13, Chen said they were placed in his home by security guards without his knowledge," Savuth said.

A source in Taiwan, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Taipei Times yesterday that Chen "has been exerting his influence and using his connections in Taiwan to make arrangements so that he can return home freely."

But the source said Chen was not likely to get off scot-free at home, and few in Taiwan are in a position to help the former gang leader evade justice.

"The precondition of erasing his criminal record is not likely to be accepted by the DPP government," the source said.

The source added that Chen has been receiving good treatment in Phnom Penh, as the source's relatives are still capable of visiting him in court and "bringing him some dishes and a telephone for his use."

In addition, the source said that a top-ranking aide to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has visited Taiwan twice to "discuss the matter of sending Chen back."

But the source refused to confirm whether the aide had asked for US$1 million for Chen's extradition.

Chen remains wanted in Taiwan on charges of racketeering and rigging bids for highway construction projects. He is also considered a spiritual leader of the Bamboo Union, one of Taiwan's most powerful organized crime syndicates.

The source also confirmed that Chen was an "adviser" to Chea Sim, president of Cambodia's senate, "at a cost of a US$50,000 donation to the Cambodian government."

Taiwanese officials have rejected an offer by Cambodia to allow for Chen's extradition in exchange for US$500,000. China's embassy in Cambodia has also expressed little interest in extraditing Chen to China.

The former gang leader's final destination remains unclear, but the source said yesterday that "China might reconsider the proposal."

The source said Chen's role in the 1984 murder of ethnic Chinese writer Henry Liu (劉宜良) might make him of interest to China.

Chen and two other gang members were convicted of plotting Liu's murder, in which the author was gunned down in California while working on a book critical of then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).

During the trial, Chen said that he carried out the murder on orders from Wang Hsi-ling (汪希苓), Taiwan's former head of military intelligence.

Wang later admitted that he gave the order in his personal capacity and out of patriotism.

After serving just six years of a life sentence, Chen was released in 1991 and fled to Cambodia.