The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence for Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) for spending millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money at hostess bars and KTV lounges.
Yen, who was sentenced for misusing public funds during his term as Taichung County Council speaker, is expected to start serving his prison sentence soon and will lose his seat in the legislature. His civil rights have been suspended for three years.
Independent Greater Taichung Council Speaker Chang Ching-tang (張清堂), who was Yen’s vice speaker in the Taichung County Council at the time, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and had his civil rights suspended for three years.
Tsai Wen-hsiung (蔡文雄), Yen’s former secretary, received six-and-a-half years and had his civil rights suspended for four years.
Although Yen and Chang are independent politicians, they are deemed close to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and their imprisonment could have an impact on Greater Taichung politics. Two by-elections are to be held to fill Yen’s legislative seat and Chang’s council speakership.
The Taiwan High Court ruled that the trio were guilty in September last year.
The Supreme Court said Yen and Chang had returned NT$20.55 million (US$687,000) in misused public funds to state coffers. As a result, the Taiwan High Court handed out reduced sentences.
The court found Yen, Chang and Tsai guilty of spending council funds between 1998 and 2000 to cover their expenditures at hostess bars and KTV lounges in then-Taichung City. According to the ruling, the trio used more than NT$20 million of council money and still owe various hostess bars about NT$10 million.
Yen, chairman of Chenlan Temple, spent three-and-a-half years in Green Island’s maximum-security prison after a crackdown on organized crime in 1986. His participation in local politics began soon after he was released.
Speaking of the decision, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) told a press conference that the sentence against Yen would take effect immediately and he would be stripped of his status as a lawmaker when the Ministry of the Interior receives the written sentence from the court.
“When we receive the written sentence, we will refer it to the Presidential Office, and the president, who would then officially announce the removal of Yen from the post of legislator,” Chien said. “At the same time, we will also inform the Central Election Commission to hold a by-election to fill the post that will be left open by Yen in three months.”
Chien said that while the deprivation of civil rights takes effect immediately, the three-year suspension period would start only after he finishes serving the jail term.
In a press statement, Yen said he had consulted Taipei County Council’s accounting director and chief secretary on how to handle the money and had no intention of committing corruption.
He said he respects the rule of law, but would continue to seek legal means to clear himself.