Taiwan ex-president taken to court

November 11, 2008 7:59:22 AM PST
Former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian was taken to a Taipei hospital Tuesday, a lawmaker said, prompting the suspension of a court proceeding to determine whether he should be formally detained on corruption charges.The development ended a day that began with Chen facing more than five hours of grilling from prosecutors investigating allegations of money laundering during his administration.

In early afternoon, he was driven in handcuffs from the prosecutors' office in downtown Taipei to the nearby court building.

As he was led away from the prosecutors' office, Chen shouted, "This is a political persecution" and "Cheers for Taiwan."

Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party said the judge ordered Chen, 57, to be evaluated at a hospital for a possible injury he suffered en route to the court building. Chen was in court when the ruling was issued.

There was no additional information on the circumstances of the injury.

Chen, whose anti-China, pro-independence activism was the hallmark of his recently concluded administration, said Monday he believed his detention was imminent. He said his successor, Ma Ying-jeou, was trying to placate China following violent protests last week against a visiting Chinese envoy.

But millions of Taiwanese revile him for permitting his presidency to be mired in an atmosphere of systematic corruption.

Friends and close advisers have been imprisoned on a variety of graft charges, his wife is being tried for allegedly looting a special presidential fund, and Chen himself is facing a complex series of judicial probes.

Tuesday's questioning focused on allegations he laundered money and made illegal use of the special presidential fund during his eight years in office that ended in May.

Chen admitted in August that he broke the law by not fully disclosing campaign donations he had received, after a lawmaker alleged that Chen's son and daughter-in-law moved millions of dollars to Switzerland in 2007, and then forwarded the funds to the Cayman Islands.

At the time prosecutors said they wanted to determine whether the funds were indeed donations left over from political campaigns - as Chen insisted - or whether bribery might have been involved.

Under Taiwanese law, false declaration of donations is subject to a fine of $9,670, but money laundering carries a seven-year prison sentence.

Several lawmakers from Ma's Nationalist Party have recently alleged that the ex-president took large bribes in connection with a spate of mergers initiated by the government in 2005, when several small banks took over a number of well-established financial institutions.

Taiwanese newspapers have also reported that Chen received millions of dollars in bribes from Taiwan's Far Eastern Group. Both the company and Chen have denied those reports.


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