Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his wife were convicted and sentenced to more years in prison yesterday on graft charges.
Chen was convicted of accepting NT$200 million (US$6.9 million) in bribes in connection with Yuanta Financial Holding Co’s (元大金控) merger with Fuhwa Financial Holding Co (復華金控) and sentenced to another 10 years, the Supreme Court said in a statement.
Chen, 62, is currently serving an 18-and-a-half year term for corruption and money-laundering.
By law, an individual can serve only a maximum of 20 years in prison unless a life term is imposed. A court will announce early next year how much Chen’s jail term will be extended by yesterday’s ruling.
Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division spokesman Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達) said one result of the ruling is that the government will now be able to ask the Swiss government to return the money which Chen’s family deposited in a Swiss bank.
The court said the money was paid to Chen as a bribe by Yuanta. The sum has been frozen by Swiss authorities since the scandal broke in 2008.
Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍), already sentenced to 19 years and two months on four convictions for charges including corruption and perjury, was sentenced to eight years in jail.
Chen’s defense attorney, Shih Yi-lin (石宜琳), said the Supreme Court still favored the argument that “the president played an influential role.”
“It is a very controversial stance in the legal field. It is also an expanded interpretation on the legal power and authority of the presidency,” Shih said, adding that he would consider whether to appeal the ruling.
Chen Shui-bian’s office issued a statement questioning whether the ruling was the result of “political interference” that aimed to disgrace Chen by rendering a verdict that was unconstitutional.
Saying the money came from political donations, Chen and Wu’ son, Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), accused the judiciary of being pliable when it came to dealing with his father.
Chen Shui-bian was detained in November 2008 on corruption charges stemming from his two terms as president between 2000 and 2008. He and members of his family have been accused of laundering millions of US dollars by sending political donations and secret diplomatic funds abroad, and taking kickbacks on government contracts.
Chen Shui-bian insists that the legal actions against him are a vendetta carried out by President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration (馬英九) in retaliation for promoting Taiwan’s independence from China during his years in office. The government rejects the allegations.
Additional reporting by Lee Hsin-fang