Bribery ruling will face appeal

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Taiwan High Prosecutors Office decided yesterday to appeal the Taiwan High Court’s latest ruling that slashed the prison sentence for Chen Che-nan, former deputy presidential secretary-general, to seven months from the nine years he was given at his previous trial for taking bribes from a businessman in 2002.

The court ruled Tuesday that because Chen’s post at the Presidential Office as a key aide to former President Chen Shui-bian did not involve supervising or conducting judicial investigations, the money Chen took was unrelated to his job, and he was therefore guilty of common fraud rather than corruption as committed by a public employee.

The three judges of a same panel handling the case also stressed that the verdict on Chen’s case was reached before the revelation of a separate case in which three High Court judges were allegedly bought off by Her Jyh-hui, a former legislator and Miaoli County magistrate. Yet the new ruling sparked widespread discussion among many people and drew protests in the judicial community. Prosecutors said they will first make a careful study of the new adjudication.

But they insisted that there was no doubt that Chen had committed the crime of using his public position to accept bribes and tried to influence certain legal cases. Chen was originally found guilty by the Taipei District Court in December 2006 of accepting NT$6 million from construction businessman Liang Po-hsun in 2002 in exchange for promising to use his influence to settle two court cases involving Liang.

He was sued by Liang after he accepted the money but failed to deliver what he had promised. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and deprived of his civil rights for 10 years.

When deliberating Chen’s appeal in June 2008, the Taiwan High Court reduced the sentence to nine years in jail and suspended his civil rights for six years on the grounds that he had given the money back to Liang.

After prosecutors and attorneys for Chen filed appeals with the Supreme Court, a panel of three judges at the Taiwan High Court were instructed to carry out a new trial. Since Chen had been detained for seven months during previous investigation and trials, he will no longer need to spend time in jail if the latest ruling holds up because the time he spent in detention can be offset against his sentence.

Some analysts said it would be difficult for the judges to convince the public that Chen would not have had any opportunity to influence judicial officials as a power broker in his capacity as deputy secretary-general of the Presidential Office, given the political influence and power he held at the time.

Prosecutors dismayed by the court ruling pointed out that former President Chen and his wife Wu Shu-chen were both convicted of corruption in court trials concerning their roles in financial reforms and Longtan land acquisition scam, although Chen was not involved with judicial affairs while Wu was not even a government employee. Meanwhile, they said Chen Che-nan will still have to face a separate trial for his alleged collusion with a retired High Court chief judge to induce certain witnesses in previous trials to make false testimonies at court hearings,

Chen had allegedly played a same role as former First Lady Wu Shu-chen who was already convicted of perjury after instructing her own son and other family members to make false statements during the trial of the case involving her using other people’s invoices or receipts to claim the presidential state affairs fund that can be used only by president for public purposes, said the prosecutors.