Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Gambling tycoon completes prison term, goes free today

WALKING FREE Chou Jen-sen, who ran an extensive network of illegal video gambling halls in the late 1980s and 1990s will finally finish his jail time today

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Since 1997, former gambling arcade tycoon Chou Jen-sen (周人蔘) has served jail time for building a luxury house where he wasn't supposed to, running a network of illegal video-gambling parlors and paying off huge numbers of police and prosecutors to allow him to stay in business in the nation's largest bribery scandal ever. Today, his jail term is up, the Ministry of Justice told reporters yesterday.

The Taiwan High Court sentenced Chou to two years in jail and a fine of NT$900 million (US$2.83 million) in 1997 for operating a network of illegal video-gambling parlors. Chou has not yet paid that fine.

Bribery

In 2003, the Taiwan High Court sentenced Chou to eight years and six months in jail for bribery. But because the Taipei District Court had ruled that he should be detained immediately when prosecutors launched their first probe in 1996, Chou finished his jail time for that sentence last year.

There were 31 defendants in that case, including high-ranking police officers and prosecutors.

Last year, the Taiwan High Court sentenced Chou to another five months jail time for illegally constructing a luxurious house in a mountain reserve area. Chou allegedly entertained prosecutors and police there before the scandal first broke in 1996.

In its ruling, the high court asked Chou to pay the outstanding NT$900 million gambling fine, and siezed NT$34 million of Chou's property to that end. Prosecutors say he disposed of most other properties before they could be siezed. Since he was unable to pay the fine, Chou agreed to serve another sentence in addition to the five months.

But according to the Criminal Code, the maximum prison term for those unable to pay a fine is half a year, so Chou's maximum sentence this time around was 11 months. Chou was sent to prison last September.

The probe into Chou's shady activities uncovered a corrupt network reaching to the highest levels of law enforcement.

Classified

Former Aviation Police Bureau deputy commissioner Lian Hsi-ming (練錫銘) was sentenced to seven years in jail because he accepted an NT$830,000 bribe from Chou.

As for former Taipei prosecutor Hsu Liang-chien (許良虔), the high court ruled that he did not accept bribe money, but he was still sentenced to 16 months in jail for leaking classified information as a government employee.

The verdict states that he helped Chou make sure his illegal business was safe by feeding him advance information about police raids.

Former Panchiao prosecutor Hung Chia-yi (洪家儀), former Chiayi City Police Department director Cheng Wen-tien (程文典) and former Taipei City Police Department chief inspector Chen Yen-min (陳衍敏) were found innocent.

Chou ran a network of video-gambling casinos in northern Taiwan from 1988 to 1997.

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