Mon, Feb 10, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Jail sentence puts crimp in Chou's political career

CORRUPTION SCANDAL Despite his having been sentenced to six years in prison for taking bribes, Chou Po-lun's friends say his departure from the legislature will be a loss

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chou Po-lun

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

Viewed by many as a high-flyer, DPP Legislator Chou Po-lun's (周伯倫) political career suddenly crashed as he was convicted of corruption in the Ronghsing Park development project prior to the Lunar New Year and sentenced to six years in prison.

The project surfaced in 1988 when then-Taipei City councilor Chen Sheng-hung (陳勝宏) revealed that several colleagues, including Chou, had taken bribes from Chiaofu Construction Corp in exchange for their support of the development plan.

After the lawsuit dragged on for 15 years, Chou was finally found guilty of corruption for taking NT$16 million from the company.

The final verdict also suspends Chou's civil liberties for four years. The suspension of his liberties will not go into effect until after he completes his jail term. The move will strip Chou of the right to vote and to run for office.

Another former Taipei City councilor, Chen Chun-yuan (陳俊源), was sentenced to five years in jail in addition to having his civil rights revoked for three years and four months.

Several other councilors and city government officials also took part in the influence-peddling scheme that sought unsuccessfully to turn part of the park near the Sungshan Airport into a commercial-residential zone.

While 10 city government officials and five city councilors were eventually acquitted, Chou and Chen were the only two city councilors convicted.

Chou resigned as a lawmaker one day after the verdict. The Taipei District Prosecutors' Office banned him from leaving the country on that same day. Chou is expected to start serving his jail term next Sunday.

Chou, who has served as a legislator representing Taipei County since 1992, has closed down his legislative office and withdrawn from the media spotlight.

DPP legislative leader Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), a close friend of Chou and one of the few who accompanied Chou to drink through the night of the verdict, said he feels sorry about his friend's conviction.

"It's such a pity to lose someone who is such a witty and formidable fighter both in real life and in the legislature," Ker said.

Chou's conviction cuts the number of DPP lawmakers from 89 to 88. The total number of pan-green lawmakers stands at 102, while that of the blue camp stands at 110.

According to Ker, Chou was emotional on the night of the verdict.

"He felt sorry for himself. He said he had managed to remain a free man during KMT rule, but ironically was put behind bars after the DPP came to power," Ker said.

Chou's 85-year-old mother, who was unaware of her only son's fate, rushed to Taipei after learning of the news by watching TV.

"I still believe he's innocent," Ker quoted her as saying.

Former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), another friend who stayed with Chou on the night of the verdict, said that although he felt sorry for Chou, there is something to feel cheerful about.

"I bet it will be a good time for him to quit drinking once he's in there," Shih said.

Many of Chou's friends have volunteered to help since they learned of Chou's verdict.

DPP legislative whip Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that he will give Chou's family a lump sum to live on while Chou is serving his time.

"That's something I can do for my friend," he said.

DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-lang (蔡煌瑯) said that he will do his best to take care of Chou's family while Chou is away.

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