The Taipei District Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) that his detention be rescinded and a plea that he be released on bail.
Chen is in custody at the Taipei Detention Center in Tucheng (土城), Taipei County, awaiting trial on charges of embezzlement, bribe-taking, money laundering and forgery. If found guilty on all the counts, he could face life imprisonment.
A panel of judges ruled that the former president, who served two four-year terms, still wields considerable influence, although there is no evidence that he could abscond if released.
The judges said the alleged money laundering by the former first family through dummy accounts was of such seriousness that it was impossible to rule out that Chen and his family were stashing large sums of money abroad for future use.
They also rejected the argument that Chen was unlikely to slip out of Taiwan because his activities would be monitored by the bodyguards assigned to protect him, contending that the bodyguards could not violate Chen’s free will if he insisted that they stop following him around.
The judges said that in the initial stage of the investigation, Chen had instructed his former cashier, Chen Chen-hui (陳鎮慧), and two former Presidential Office aides to give false testimony regarding the former first family’s alleged embezzlement of the president’s “state affairs fund” and its money-laundering activities.
Based on these considerations, the court ruled it was necessary that the former president remain in custody. Chen Shui-bian was indicted on Dec. 12 on corruption charges involving nearly NT$500 million (US$14.68 million), becoming the first former head of state in the nation’s history to be put on trial for criminal offenses.
He was released on Dec. 13 after being detained for 32 days.
The Special Investigation Panel (SIP) filed an appeal on Dec. 16 against the court’s decision to release Chen Shui-bian but failed.
The SIP launched a new bid on Dec. 25 on grounds that he might abscond through “secret channels.”
The Taiwan High Court ordered the Taipei District Court on Dec. 28 to reconsider its decision to release the former president and on Dec. 30 the Taipei District Court approved the prosecutors’ request to put Chen Shui-bian back in detention.
Chen Shui-bian and his wife were indicted for embezzling NT$104 million from the president’s special discretionary fund during his presidency from 2000 until last year.
They are also accused of taking bribes worth NT$300 million in connection with a land procurement deal and another NT$90.93 million in kickbacks to help a contractor win the tender for a government construction project.