Heavy Sentence: Chen Shui-bian Profited from his Position as President
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 14, 2011
Summary: The High Court has delivered its second instance verdict in the Chen family "Second Financial Reform" corruption and bribery scandal. It overturned the Not Guilty verdict rendered by the Full Court of the Taipei District Court presided over by Chou Chan-chun. It ruled that Chen Shui-bian abused the power of the presidency to extort money from the financial industry. It found Ah-Bian, Ah-Cheng and other accomplices guilty of corruption and imposed stiff sentences upon them.
Full Text Below:
The High Court has delivered its second instance verdict in the Chen family "Second Financial Reform" corruption and bribery scandal. It overturned the Not Guilty verdict rendered by the Full Court of the Taipei District Court presided over by Chou Chan-chun. It ruled that Chen Shui-bian abused the power of the presidency to extort money from the financial industry. It found Ah-Bian, Ah-Cheng and other accomplices guilty of corruption and imposed stiff sentences upon them.
The court of the second instance found that while Chen Shui-bian was Republic of China President, he "abused his power to amass wealth. He treated the office of the president as a tool for conferring political advantages in exchange for cash payments from wealthy conglomerates." He "betrayed the public trust. Nothing could be worse than that." Addressing Wu Shu-cheng's corruption, the court said she "secretly colluded with industry heads, abused political power, exceeded her authority, and accepted bribes from businesses. Hundreds of millions of dollars came and went. The presidential palace was turned into a trading center." This is what the public collectively witnessed during the trial. This is what Chou Chan-chun conceded took place. Yet, incredibly, Chou Chan-chun handed down a Not Guilty verdict. Fortunately, the court of second instance was around to remedy Chou's travesty of justice.
Chou Chan-chun ruled that the "Second Financial Reforms" were not constitutionally mandated presidential powers. Chou ruled that the vast sum of 500 million dollars was comprised entirely of campaign contributions, Chou ruled that when the president pocketed the money, his conduct bore no relation to his presidential duties. Therefore he was not guilty of political corruption. His ruling was so mind-boggling it provoked a nationwide uproar. Soon afterwards, the High Court handed down another ruling on the Chen family corruption scandal. It adopted an entirely different view than Chou Chan-chun regarding the conduct of the president, It soon became clear that once the "Second Financial Reform" scandal was reviewed by the court of second instance, Chou Chan-chun's ruling would be overturned.
The Supreme Court and the High Court both ruled that as long as the president's conduct bears a relationship to his official duties, it is substantially affected by his official position. Therefore it amounts to job related conduct. The High Court further pointed out that seven constitutional amendments have been passed and presidential powers have been steadily expanded. Constitutional Interpretation No. 520 states that the President has the right to appoint and remove the Premier. Constitutional Interpretation No. 61 interprets and explains the powers of the executive, from top to bottom. Furthermore, when Chen Shui-bian was president, the Chen family was implicated in four scandals, including the Longtan Land Purchase scandal, and the Diana Chen scandal. During a television interview, Chen himself declared that the president has substantial authority to formulate Executive Yuan policy and make personnel appointments. Therefore the "Second Financial Reform" was well within the purview of the president, Chen Shui-bian took advantage of his official position to extort and receive bribes. Of course this qualifies as job related conduct.
Chou Chan-chun's ruling was utterly divorces from reality in other ways. Chen Shui-bian extorted 500 million dollars from Cathay Financial Holdings and the Yuanta Ma family. Chou ruled that the entire sum was campaign contributions. But during the second instance trial the High Court found that Chen Shui-bian and Tsai Hung-tu reached a bribe agreement in May 2002. The High Court found that later Chen Shui-bian abused his official powers to help Cathay Financial Holdings acquire United Bank. In September 2002, October 2003, and September, 2004, Chen demanded and received 100 million dollars in bribes from Tsai Hung-tu. On two occasions Ma Yung-cheng went to Tsai Hung-tu's home to obtain the bribes. On the remaining occasion Tsai Cheng-yu visited the presidential mansion and delivered the money to Wu Shu-cheng. This 300 million bore a direct relationship to Chen Shui-bian's official position. Chen Shui-bian argued that Tsai Hung-tu's 300 million dollars were campaign contributions, His claim was less than credible.
While addressing the role of the Yuanta Ma family, the court ruled that Tu Li-ping told Ma Chi-ling that Wu Shu-cheng demanded 200 million dollars in bribes. Ma Chi-ling blurted out "This is a total rip-off!" But the Ma family paid up anyway, in exchange for Chen family assistance in acquiring Fuhua. Therefore the High Court determined that Chen family claims that the funds were merely campaign contributions were simply not credible.
The High Court found Chen Shui-bian guilty of corruption and money laundering. It sentenced him to 18 years in prison and fined him 180 million dollars. It ruled that 500 million dollars in illicit gains amassed via corruption must be recovered and confiscated. It found Wu Shu-cheng guilty in the Yuanta Ma family scandal and sentenced her to 11 years in prison, It fined her 120 million dollars. She and Chen Shui-bian will have 200 million dollars confiscated from them. Other accomplices will also be prosecuted. Chen Shui-bian will have to serve a lengthy sentence. But no matter what sentence Wu Shu-chen receives, she is unlikely to actually serve any real time. Attempts to recover the money from the Chen family will probably be unsuccessful. Therefore, although the court has imposed a heavy sentence, the real world impact will be light. All it will do is proclaim to the nation that justice has been served.
Chen Shui-bian has the right to appeal the High Court ruling, Therefore we are still a long way from the final verdict. We saw Chou Chan-chun's ruling overturned by the High Court. We saw the courts perform a complete about face. Different level courts arrived at different opinions. Some of the opinions reflect the opinions of some officials within the justice system. Some of the opinions reflect the feelings of the public and their common sense understanding of the law, This goes without saying. But the reversals generated controversy and confusion. They blurred the standards of right and wrong. We sincerely hope, that in future cases that attract public attention, justice can prevail.