Sun, Nov 05, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Presidential Office in crisis: Prosecutor Eric Chen: Staying true to his principles

MAN OF HONOROne of the founders of the Prosecutors' Reform Association, Chen is known for his high principles, independent spirit and dedication to the pursuit of truth

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) made his mark on history when he announced on Friday the indictment of first lady Wu Shu-jen (吳淑珍) on corruption charges -- the first time ever in Taiwan's history that an immediate member of the first family has ever been charged.

Who is Eric Chen?

Although he has been in the public spotlight for months since he undertook the investigation of the alleged misuse of the "state affairs fund," very few people know the man behind the case.

In May 1998, a group of prosecutors nationwide announced the establishment of the Prosecutors' Reform Association, and the main figure of the association is Eric Chen, who was then Shihlin District prosecutor.

The association was founded at a time when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government was widely believed to be manipulating prosecutors to keep them from indicting of investigating government officials or big business tycoons.

"The establishment of the association was actually driven by the prosecutors' discontent with then-minister of justice Liao Cheng-hao (廖正豪), who strictly controlled the prosecutors and caused a lot of dissatisfaction," Shihlin District prosecutor Lin Zai-pei (林在培) told the Taipei Times.

The association was established to empower prosecutors and give them more room to strive for independence, Lin said.

However, developing such a group was not easy because most prosecutors have strong opinions, making it hard to arrive at a consensus on issues.

Eric Chen was one of the key figures who contributed to the successful establishment of the group, Lin said.

Not long after the association was set up, Chen was offered the position of lead prosecutor, which he declined, saying he preferred to stay with young prosecutors and that he did not want people to see his promotion as a reward by the Ministry of Justice.

Prosecutor Eric Chen

* Born: 1956

* Education: Law School of National Taiwan University; LLM program of Columbia University, New York.

* Career: Taitung District prosecutor, Shihlin District prosecutor, prosecutor at the Black Gold Investigation Center.

* Achievements: One of the founders of Prosecutors' Reform Association; in charge of investigations into the Lafayette procurement scandal, the "vultures" insider-trading scandal and the alleged misuse of the "state affairs fund."


"We are so proud of Eric Chen's performance. He has helped promote independence in the nation's prosecutorial system, which is very helpful to our democracy," Lin Ching-tsung (林慶宗), a prosecutor with the Kaohsiung branch of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office, told the Taipei Times.

"His only consideration is the evidence, not political color. He is a model for other prosecutors," Lin added.

In July 2000, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration set up the Black Gold Investigation Center under the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors' Office to serve as a special prosecutorial office.

In Sept. 2001, Chen became a member of the center.

Chen also enjoys respect from most reporters covering the justice beat in Taipei.

In February last year, three opposition lawmakers under investigation by the center for alleged bribery threatened to cut the center's proposed NT$7 million (US$212,765) budget in retaliation. The tactic failed, however, after Chen and other prosecutors told the press and the story made headlines.

Soon after, other lawmakers and two non-governmental organizations threw their support behind the center, and the legislature swiftly approved the center's budget for this year.

In September 2004, when Prosecutor Wu Ying-chao (吳英昭) was nominated to State Public Prosecutor-General, Chen said his association opposed Wu's appointment because of his past involvement in scandals such as the illegal trading of Taiwan Pineapple Corp shares.

The association questioned Wu's ability to lead prosecutors in a probe of corruption among high-level officials.

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