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Fri, Dec 01, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Legislator gets 15 years for corruption

GRAFT The Taiwan High Court says that independent lawmaker Wu Tzer-yuan took NT$6 million in connection with a flood-prevention project in Taipei County


The Taiwan High Court sentenced independent legislator Wu Tzer-yuan (伍澤元) to 15 years in prison yesterday.

The court found that Wu had accepted more than NT$6 million in bribes while he served as the director of the Taiwan Provincial Planning and Developing Department between 1988 and 1992.

The court said Wu, former legislator Lee Tsung-cheng (李宗正) and other officials in Wu's department had taken money from Kuo-feng Corp. The company had bid for a pumping station project in Panchiao, Taipei County in 1992.

The court said Wu took the money in exchange for helping Kuo-feng win the pumping station contract, which was designed to resolve flooding problems in Panchiao.

The court gave Wu 15 years, blasting him for caring nothing about the lives and properties of hundreds of thousands of Panchiao residents when making the kickback deal.

Wu, who was ordered detained during a trial by the Panchiao District Court in 1996, was granted bail for medical reasons by the High Court in May 1998.

Seven months after his release, the former KMT politician was elected to the legislature -- despite his membership being canceled by the party, which disapproved of his campaign.

During the trial, Wu answered almost every court summons, though he did not attend yesterday's verdict announcement.

Both Wu and prosecutors could appeal yesterday's decision.

Wu's status as a legislator will not be affected until his case is affirmed by the Supreme Court.

As an enormously powerful politician in the southern county of Pingtung, Wu earned widespread attention for his involvement in the case. Previous court rulings have swung wildly between his favor and that of the prosecutors.

In 1996, the Panchiao District Court found Wu guilty and sentenced him to life in prison for taking bribes of more than NT$26 million. Wu, who was serving as a Pingtung county commissioner at the time, was forced to resign from his post.

But in 1998, the High Court reversed the district court's ruling and reduced Wu's sentence to 15 years. The court also ruled that Wu had taken NT$6 million in bribes, not NT$26 million.

Then in October that same year, the Supreme Court returned the case to the High Court, saying the lower court had "deliberately applied laws favorable to Wu" in reducing his sentence.

In response to the Supreme Court's ruling, the High Court changed the charge against Wu to one that carries a possible prison term of life. But the length of the sentence remained 15 years.

Apart from his sentence, Wu's medical parole has also been attacked in light of his run for the legislature. Some critics have called for the lawmaker to be put back in detention.

The Judicial Reform Foundation, an organization that has been especially critical of Wu's parole, recently issued a statement to the High Court judges on the case. The foundation said that the lawmaker appears to be in good health and should therefore be incarcerated again.

But the High Court declined to detain Wu, saying the reasons to hold him were no longer valid. There was no reason to believe Wu would destroy evidence in the case or suborn perjury, the court said.

The court also noted that Wu had attended almost every hearing in the trial and so it did not judge him to be a flight risk.

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