Monday, August 3, 2009

The Chen Family's Overseas Funds Must Be Accounted For

The Chen Family's Overseas Funds Must Be Accounted For
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
August 3, 2009

The Chen family corruption case is coming to an end in the Taipei District Court. Public attention is focused on which crimes the four members of he Chen family will be convicted of, and the severity of their sentences. Whether justice is done however, will depend on whether the vast sums of money can be recovered. The courts, the prosecutors, and the defense attorneys will be attempting to strike a balance.
Based on the Special Investigation Unit's Bill of Indictment and Supplementary Indictment, conservative estimates are that Chen family income from corruption and illegal campaign contributions exceeds 2 billion NTD. The vast majority of the money has been transferred overseas. So far the prosecution hasn't been able to get a handle on it. Once the court rules that these funds are the result of political corruption or illegal campaign contributions, they will be confiscated in accordance with the law. If it is not possible to confiscate them, they should be treated as the property of a criminal offender. Chen family assets on Taiwan are clearly far short of these sums. If these vast sums of illicit funds cannot be recovered, it will be a flagrant travesty of justice.

Among the four defendants of the Chen family, Chen Shui-bian and Wu Shu-cheng refuse to admit guilt. Chen Chi-chung and Huang Jiu-ching have admitted guilt. But whether they have confessed to laundering the proceeds of Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng's political corruption, and helped prosecutors to recover the funds, remains unknown. Under the circumstances, prosecutors have little room to negotiate with the Chen family. One can only wait for the court's decision. If the court finds the Chen family guilty, the Chen family's unrepentant attitude following the commission of its crimes means their sentences will not be light. But even if the sentences are heavy, what if the Chen family still refuses to hand over its ill-gotten gains?

After the verdict in the first instance, regardless of whether the Chen family hands over its dirty money, the judge in the second instance must determine whether Chen Shui-bian should remain in custody or be allowed to post bail. Travel restrictions on their children may be lifted by the court in the second instance, based on legal precedents. Otherwise restrictions will be lifted immediately. If Chen Shui-bian is released on bail, and travel restrictions are lifted on his children, allowing them to leave the country, the Chen family may go overseas to dispose of its ill-gotten gains. This will make it even more difficult to solve the case and recover the funds in the future. Therefore, the court and prosecution must carefully consider their decisions in this case.

First, until the verdict has been rendered in the first instance, Chen Shui-bian will remain in custody and his children will not be allowed to leave the country. Until the Chen family has fulfilled its promise to turn over its dirty money, the above restrictions should not be lifted, and the prosecution will be in no position to offer a plea bargain. After the first instance verdict has been delivered, the court of the second instance must take into account the issue of money yet to be recovered. The judge must consider extending Chen Shui-bian's detention, and extending the travel limitations on his family members, in order to keep them from leaving the country.

If during the trial in the second instance, the Chen family remains unrepentant, if it chooses to serve time in prison rather than turn over its dirty money, then the judge has no room for clemency. But if the Chen family's attitude changes, if it cooperates with the prosecution and helps recover the money, their children may be given lighter sentences or probation, or be forgiven by society. But if the Chen family's attitude remains unchanged, all the way to the court of the third instance, then the court may have no choice but to immediately carry out the sentence rendered upon Chen Shui-bian. Chen family members may also be barred from leaving the country until a sentence has been imposed. If that turns out to be the case, then it will be because the Chen family prefers to hold on to the money even if it means serving time in prison. It will have only itself to blame.

These are matters the court and the prosecution must consider to ensure justice. If the Chen family insists on keeping its dirty money, it may be kept in detention or be forbidden to leave the country until a verdict has been rendered, and they have served out their sentences. After they have regained their freedom, they may still be able to enjoy their loot. The Chen family may intend to keep its ill-gotten gains even if it means its members must go to prison.

The Chen family's rosy scenario may not pan out. It may not be able to transfer its overseas funds back to Taiwan. After all, its funds have already been identified by foreign banks as dirty money. The Chen family may not be able to recover it. Consider Wang Chuan-pu's illicit gains. The government can't get it back, but neither can the Wang family. If so, on the one hand the Chen family won't be able to retrieve its illicit funds from overseas. On the other hand, the court is after the Chen family for unpaid taxes. Attempting to keep the money is probably a lose/lose proposition. Therefore the Chen family ought to find a way to return the money as soon as possible, and avoid digging itself in any deeper.

The court must account for the whereabouts of the money. Whether the money is returned should have a bearing on the sentencing. The court is about to conclude its deliberations. Today is the prosecution's last chance to consult with the Chen family, The Chen family and its defense attorneys should think long and hard about their final move.

2009.08.03 04:33 am










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