Former Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and his wife, former first lady Wu Shu-chen, were convicted Friday on corruption and money laundering charges and sentenced to life in prison, according to officials at Taipei City Court.
They also were fined 200 million New Taiwan dollars (U.S.$6.1 million). Last week a court sentenced Wu to a year in prison for lying to prosecutors in her husband’s corruption case. She was convicted on charges that she helped her son, daughter and son-in-law provide false testimony. The others were each sentenced to six months in jail. Prosecutors said the former first couple’s son has a Swiss bank account with $22 million they think are illegal proceeds. Chen was not at the courthouse when the verdict was read. He had asked to be excused and was being held at a detention center. He has denied wrongdoing and said the charges were politically motivated by his successor, Ma Ying-jeou. Chen’s party favors independence for Taiwan, while Ma favors closer ties with mainland China. Supporters gathered outside the courthouse hours before the verdict, wearing bright-green shirts and carrying yellow balloons and banners. Riot police stood by in case the crowd got out of control as they protested the verdict. The former president’s corruption trial — the first for a former head of state — began in March and has gripped the island for months. Prosecutors said Chen embezzled 600 million New Taiwan dollars (U.S.$17.7 million), took bribes, laundered money and illegally removed classified documents from the president’s office. The challenge for them was to prove Chen handed out political favors in exchange for money. Chen has countered that the bribe money was actually political donations. He has also said that a special presidential fund from which he is accused of embezzling does not clearly say what the money can and cannot be used for.