Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was cleared of embezzlement charges yesterday, as the Taiwan High Court upheld a not-guilty verdict handed down by a lower court.
The Taiwan High Court said it found no evidence that Lee embezzled US$7.79 million in state funds used to conduct foreign affairs.
The Taipei District Court acquitted Lee of the charges in November last year, but the Special Investigation Division (SID) of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office appealed the ruling to the High Court.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
Lee issued a statement via his office yesterday after the verdict was announced saying he felt no particular joy over the ruling, because the SID was pursuing an old case by laying charges against him without any evidence.
“Now I hope the dust has settled and the case can be closed. The judiciary has to become truly independent, so in the future no person will be wrongly persecuted,” Lee said.
“Taiwan is now a democracy. The governing authority must not manipulate the judiciary to maintain its hold on political power. It should focus its efforts on the nation’s development,” he said.
Lee’s lawyer, Wellington Koo (顧立雄), said that “in his heart,” the former president does welcome the ruling that exonerates him and clears his name.
“Otherwise, Lee would be tainted by the charges in this late stage of his life, something he cannot accept,” Koo said.
Koo criticized the SID for reopening the case, which was closed in 2006, and then appealing the lower court’s decision to the higher court.
“Now the High Court has cleared Lee of the charges, but the damage has been done. There should be a mechanism to pursue the SID’s legal responsibility in bringing these charges,” he said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Huang Di-ying (黃帝穎) said that both the rulings proved that the SID had a political motive when it first filed charges against Lee six months before the 2012 presidential election.
“The SID was abusing its power, acting like nothing but a political henchman of [President] Ma [Ying-jeou, 馬英九] in persecuting the former president,” Huang said.
Legal experts said that as the courts had acquitted Lee, and the SID can only file an appeal with the Supreme Court if the second ruling were found to be in violation of the Constitution, the case is likely to be closed with yesterday’s ruling.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s ruling extended the prison term given to Liu Tai-ying (劉泰英), a close associate of Lee and former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) treasurer, to three years, from the previous two years and eight months.
The High Court said it found evidence that Liu had embezzled US$150,000 in traveler’s checks.
Liu’s lawyer, Chen Sung-tung (陳松棟), said the verdict was “unbelievable,” adding that there was no evidence that Liu embezzled state funds.
He said the verdict would be appealed to the Supreme Court.
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