The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the Taiwan High Court’s not guilty verdict for president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), rejecting charges that he misused his special allowance during his eight-year tenure as Taipei mayor.
The Supreme Court’s verdict is final.
“The prosecutors’ reasons for appeal were not solid. There was insufficient evidence for a guilty verdict. As a result, we decided to uphold the Taiwan High Court’s verdict,” Chang Chun-tsung (張淳淙), spokesman for the Supreme Court’s Criminal Department, told a press conference yesterday afternoon.
In addition to dropping the charges against Ma, Supreme Court judges also upheld the Taiwan High Court’s guilty verdict and one-year prison sentence for Yu Wen (余文), Ma’s secretary.
Chang said the prosecutors’ appeal was received on Jan. 30. Judges reviewed the appeal and ruled that the Taiwan High Court’s verdict should stand, as the appeal was not persuasive.
“Basically, judges believe that this case was the result of human error made by Yu and had nothing to do with Ma. That is why Yu’s sentence was upheld,” Chang said.
Ma’s spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said Ma was calm when he learned about the verdict and had been confident that the court would uphold the not guilty verdict.
Lo said Ma turned on the TV at about 3:20pm to hear the verdict, before carrying on with his normal schedule.
Asked whether the verdict would have bearing on similar cases in the future, Lo said that it would probably influence the judicial system.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus issued an immediate response to the verdict, with DPP legislative caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) saying he was sorry, but not surprised.
“He [Ma] should know better than anyone else,” Lai said. “He is innocent in the eyes of the law, but it does not necessarily mean that he is clean.”
Lai said he was not surprised because Ma was president-elect and he did not believe the Supreme Court would pass a guilty verdict against an incoming president. He said Ma should have received punishment instead of Yu, because Yu was merely helping Ma.
“He [Ma] will enjoy immunity during his presidency, but I believe that an increasing number of legal experts will continue to scrutinize this case in the future to determine whether our new president is really clean,” Lai said.
When asked for comment, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) urged the DPP to stop focusing on the case now that it was over.
“His innocence has been confirmed,” Lai Shyh-bao said, calling William Lai’s remark an attempt to incite “political persecution” against Ma.
Lai Shyh-bao also urged prosecutor Eric Chen (陳瑞仁) to handle President Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) “state affairs fund” case and other special allowance cases using the same standards he applied to Ma’s case.
The case began on Feb. 13 last year, when the Special Investigation Panel of the Taiwan High Court Prosecutors’ Office indicted Ma and Yu on charges of corruption.
Prosecutors said that with Yu’s help, Ma embezzled more than NT$12 million (US$400,000) from his special allowance fund during his eight-year term as Taipei mayor.
Ma stepped down as chairman of the KMT and announced his bid for the presidency on the day of his indictment.
Prosecutors discovered that Ma had donated more than NT$11 million to various charities during the same period.
Yu conceded that he had forged receipts to apply for funds for Ma.
The Taipei District Court handed down the first verdict on Aug. 14.
The judges said Ma had not illegally pocketed his special allowance money.
Yu, however, was sentenced to 14 months in prison. Prosecutors appealed for the first time on Aug. 29.
On Dec. 28, the Taiwan High Court upheld the district court’s verdict, saying that Ma had only spent the money on necessary expenses.
Yu’s sentence was reduced to one year in jail. Prosecutors appealed on Jan. 9.
Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih and Flora Wang
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