TAIPEI, March 4 – Taiwan’s detained former president on Wednesday denied taking bribes in a land deal during a hearing into a high-profile corruption case implicating him and his family.
Chen Shui-bian, who has been in custody since December on graft and other charges, all of which he has rejected, defended himself in a pre-trial hearing into the construction of an industrial park in northern Taiwan.
Prosecutors allege that the Koo’s Group had secured billions of Taiwan dollars worth of illegal benefits from selling land to the government for the development of the industrial park after giving 400 million Taiwan dollars (11.42 million US) to Chen and his wife Wu Shu-chen.
Wu has admitted taking only 200 million Taiwan dollars (5.7 million US) and insisted it was a political donation.
"Regarding the Lungtan case, my wife has repeatedly said the money she had received was a political donation, not a kickback," Chen, 59, said.
He said he had no knowledge of his wife taking the money anyway, citing witness Jeffrey Koo Jr, former vice chairman of Chinatrust Financial Holding Co.
"From what Koo said, they knew I was absolutely not involved in the Lungtan case…I knew nothing about money until December when the indictment paper was unveiled," he said.
Chen is also accused of embezzlement, money laundering, influence peddling and extortion, charges he has categorically rejected. He faces life in prison if convicted on all counts.
The ex-leader repeated his allegations of political persecution by the China-friendly Kuomintang government which he says is leading a witch hunt against him. Chen irked China with his pro-independence rhetoric while he was in office.
Fourteen people have been charged in the case, 11 of whom have admitted a variety of offences, including Wu and the Chen’s son and daughter-in-law, who have pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Some legal experts have expressed concern about the handling of Chen’s case, including the decision to detain him ahead of his trial and to change the presiding judge.