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Taiwan prosecutors launch new corruption charges in Chen case

FORMER Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian was indicted on new graft charges yesterday as his high-profile corruption trial continued into its second month.

Prosecutorial spokesman Chen Yun-nan said the former leader and his wife, Wu Shu-chen, took NT$290 million in bribes from 2002 to 2005 (US$8.8 million at current exchange rates) from a Taiwan banker, camouflaging the money as either political donations or funds to promote Taiwanese interests overseas.

Jeffrey Koo Jr, then vice chairman of Chinatrust Financial Holding Co, paid the sum in seven installments from 2002 to 2005, Chen Yun-nan said.

Prosecutors had been looking into charges that Koo paid the bribes in exchange for Chen Shui-bian's help in Chinatrust's plan to merge with another bank and in persuading the government to acquire a piece of land from his bank.

Koo denied the allegations, saying the money was a political donation to Chen's Democratic Progressive Party.

Chen Yun-nan said yesterday prosecutors accepted Koo's version of events and he was not indicted because the former leader demanded that Koo pay him the money.

"Koo is considered to be the victim of the crime," the spokesman said.

Chen Shui-bian, 58, is already standing trial on charges of embezzling NT$104 million from a special fund, receiving bribes worth at least US$9 million in US currency in connection with a government land deal and laundering part of the funds by wiring the money to Swiss bank accounts. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Chen Shui-bian - who served as Taiwan leader from 2000 to 2008 - has been held in a suburban Taipei detention center since December.

He was freed several weeks after his indictment in November, but he was sent back to jail after prosecutors won an appeal that he was a flight risk.

The wide-ranging corruption probe against Chen Shui-bian has also ensnared his son, daughter-in-law and several aides and associates.


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