Former president goes down for life

Sept. 14, 2009 at 12:16 PM
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TAIPEI, Taiwan, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The courts have moved to sequester properties and bank accounts of Taiwan's former president and first lady after they were sentenced to life for corruption.

Chen Shui-bian and his wife, Wu Su-chen, own two luxury apartments worth $9 million in the capital Taipei and another apartment in Kaohsiung, a port and the country's second-largest city. Their bank accounts are said to be worth more than $12 million, according to a report in The China Post newspaper.

The court orders come after Chen, who was president from 2000 to 2008, was sentenced to life in prison last week. The sentencing ended a three-year legal battle that has scooped up his wider family, friends and close governmental colleagues.

The Democratic Progressive Party, now the official opposition party, has also moved to distance itself from its former leader, according to a report in the China Daily newspaper.

Chen resigned from the party in August 2008 just as his detention began. A party spokesperson is quoted as saying the DPP would not allow him back in, should he reapply for membership, for five years.

Chen chose not to be in court when the sentence was handed down but remained in prison. He denies all the charges, claiming they were politically motivated, and he intends to appeal the case.

He was found guilty of embezzlement, taking bribes, forgery and money laundering of up to $13 million when he was in office.

His wife, who is already in jail for perjury in the same case, was also sentenced to life for corruption and ordered, along with her husband, to pay fines totaling $30 million. She is alleged to have asked her children to lie in court.

Prosecutors of the Taiwan's Special Counsel also indicted 11 defendants, including their son and daughter-in-law, for money laundering. At least $19 million was laundered at two Swiss banks, The China Post reported.

The court said it will request that the Swiss banks return money that is believed to have been laundered.

Chen offered his first apology for money laundering in 2008 but at the same time blamed his wife for doing the deed in Switzerland.

The sentencing prompted former Vice President Annette Lu to call for her former boss to apologize again. "As his Vice President for eight years, I agonized -- few know how agonized I was -- while he was being tried and after he was convicted."

"But President Chen has let down all his supporters here and abroad," Lu went on. "I wish Chen and his family should apologize deeply and sincerely again," she pointed out.

Public and political reaction to the sentencing has been mixed, Hsu Yung-ming, a political science professor at Soochow University, told the BBC Asia news Web site.

The heavy sentence will deepen long-existing hostilities between the island's ruling Kuomintang Party and the main opposition party, the DPP, she said.

Part of the former president's election platform was to stamp out corruption believed to be rife after decades of what amounted to one-party rule by the Kuomintang, the descendants of the group of nationalists who fled communist-led armies and escaped to Formosa, now called Taiwan, in 1949.

While most people believe Chen is guilty to a large degree of the charges, it appears his court case was more a political vendetta than blind justice.

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