Chen's Secret Diplomacy: Real or Phony?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 14, 2010
Summary: The Supreme Court has ordered the four Chen corruption cases retried. It has decided that the Full Court under High Court Judge Cheng Shen-yi should preside. The most critical aspect of the case is determining the amount of money Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng illegally acquired from the State Affairs Fund. Future trial courts must come clean on Chen's so-called secret diplomacy. Was it for real, or was it phony. The answer has a bearing on the president's conduct, therefore it must be made crystal clear. If one cannot understand the crime, one cannot successfully prosecute someone for the crime.
Full Text below:
The Supreme Court has ordered the four Chen corruption cases retried.
It has decided that the Full Court under High Court Judge Cheng Shen-yi should preside. The most critical aspect of the case is determining the amount of money Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng illegally acquired from the State Affairs Fund.
According to the Punishment of Corruption Act, the harshest penalty that can be imposed in the Chen family corruption cases, is life imprisonment.
The court of first instance found Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng guilty of illegally pocketing over 100 million NT. Of that, 72.4 million was obtained through embezzlement, and 35 million was obtained through fraud. That is why they were given life sentences. The court of second instance drastically reduced the amount the First Couple were charged with illegally pocketing. It charged them with embezzling only 14 million NT,
then reduced their sentences to 14 years.
Assume their life sentences are confirmed. If so, then it will not matter how many more crimes they are charged with. The result will still be life imprisonment. Corruption is no longer punishable by death. Assume they are given a number of prison sentences of differing duration. According to existing laws, the most they can be sentenced to is 30 years. Chen was involved in a long list of major felonies. Assume he evades a life sentence.
He will still have to serve the maximum sentence -- 30 years. The only difference arises when he applies for parole. If a convict has been sentenced to life, he must serve at least 25 years before being paroled.
But if he is not sentenced to life, he must serve at least half of his original term before being paroled. If he has been sentenced to 30 years, he can be paroled after serving only 15 years. The amount of time Ah-Bian and Ah-Cheng serve could vary by as much as 10 years.
Why was there such a huge discrepancy between the rulings handed down by the first instance court and the second instance court? Compare and contrast the justifications cited in each case. The second instance court adopted the most lenient attitude it could. Many indeterminate Chen family expenses and so-called secret diplomacy expenses were classified as presidential office expenses, therefore not included as part of the indictment. The Supreme Court looked at this reasoning, then sent it back and demanded that it be reexamined. The Supreme Court chastized the second instance court for pulling its punches on many of the charges. Such leniency will no longer be tolerated.
Chen Shui-bian personally approved the state affairs fund expenditures.
Therefore the first instance court ruled that he was clearly aware that the Chen family's private expenditures had been illegally reported as official expenditures. The judge who presided over the first instance court cited
Chen Chih-chung's 2006 wedding motorcade, which ran roughshod over the law, provoking public criticism. He noted that Chen Shui-bian personally issued a press release and explained that the Chen family "must pay the fine." Yet in his state affairs fund expenditures made Chen Shui-bian's criminal intent abundantly clear.
The judge also pointed out that beginning in August 2006, when Chen Shui-bian came under investigation, three secret diplomacy projects had expanded to six. At the time, Chen insisted that "I have already told you everything." Nevertheless in 2007 further investigation revealed, to everyone's amazement, that the number of secret diplomacy projects had been increased twice, and now numbered a whopping 56. Further investigation showed that every one of these projects was fraudulent.
That is why the judge said Chen Shui-bian "admitted guilt only after the prosecutors uncovered the truth." Chen Shui-bian was simply lying to cover up his crimes. Knowing this, the first instance court found the Chen family guilty of using fake invoices and fake rosters to conduct fake secret diplomacy. The secret diplomacy Chen conducted, and the state affairs funds he embezzled were criminal proceeds, and warranted a life sentence.
The Chen family charged everything to the state, including pet care expenses, tea leaf expenses, banquet expenses, incidental household expenses, and Wu Shu-chen's personal expenses. Yet the judge who presided over the original second instance court alleged that "No evidence suggests that these expenditures had anything to do with the duties of the president." He said also that Wu Shu-cheng was "authorized by Chen Shui-bian to help him fulfill the official duties of the president." He said no one could prove that the state affairs fund had no relationship with the president's official duties. The second instance court ruled that there was "little suspicion any crime had been committed," and excluded these expenditures from the list of charges. The Supreme Court however, sternly rebuked the second instance court for this ruling, and noted that another court may well hand down an entirely different ruling.
The judge said nothing about the authenticity of the so-called secret diplomacy projects. He said nothing about why Chen Shui-bian fabricated these projects to obstruct investigations into his crimes. He merely concluded that such expenditures may have been made, but failed to prove that Chen Shui-bian had misappropriated state affairs funds.
A number of private Chen family expenditures could not be explained away. The judge who presided over the second instance court concluded therefore they had been charged to the state affairs fund, and ruled accordingly. But in spite of such lenient standards, Chen Shui-bian could not escape a 14 year prison sentence. This proves that the Chen family deserves no sympathy for its state affairs fund crimes.
Future trial courts must come clean on Chen's so-called secret diplomacy.
Was it for real, or was it phony. The answer has a bearing on the president's conduct, therefore it must be made crystal clear. If one cannot understand the crime, one cannot successfully prosecute someone for the crime.