Chen's Secret Diplomacy: Real or Phony? --An Issue to Be Reexamined in Retrial
Chen's Secret Diplomacy: Real or Phony?
--An Issue to Be Reexamined in Retrial
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 14, 2010
The Supreme Court has ordered the four Chen corruption cases remanded to the lower court for retrial. It has been decided that the collegiate bench headed by High Court Judge Shen Yi-sheng will retry the cases. The most critical aspect of the case is determining the amount of money Ah-Bian and Ah-Jen 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.
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The Supreme Court has ordered the four Chen corruption cases remanded to the lower court for retrail. It has been decided that the collegiate bench headed by High Court Judge Shen Yi-sheng will retry the cases. The most critical aspect of the case is determining the amount of money Ah-Jen and Ah-Cheng illegally acquired from the State Affairs Fund.
According to the Anti-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-Jen guilty of illegally pocketing over NT$ 100 million. Of that, NT$ 72.4 million was obtained through embezzlement, and NT$ 35.2 million was obtained through fraud. That is why they were given life sentences. The court of second instance (appeals court) drastically reduced the amount the First Couple were charged with illegally pocketing. It charged them with embezzling only NT$ 14 million, 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-Jen 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 Appeals Court? Compare and contrast the justifications cited in each case. The Appeal 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 and then remanded the cases for retrial; it must be reexamined. The Supreme Court chastised the Appeals Court for pulling its punches on many of the charges. Such leniency will no longer be tolerated during retrial.
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 the fine was paid by the State Affairs Fund and this 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, and conducting 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, tealeaf expenses, banquet expenses, incidental household expenses, and Wu Shu-jen's personal expenses. Yet the judge who presided over the Appeals Court alleged that "No evidence suggests that these expenditures had nothing to do with the functions of the President." He said also that Wu Shu-jen was "authorized by Chen Shui-bian to help him fulfill the official functions of the President." He said no one could prove that her using of the state affairs fund had no relationship with the President's official functions. The Appeals 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 Appeals Court for this ruling, and noted that there is room for the Appeal Courts to reconsider its 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 Appeals Court trial 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.
(Courtesy of United Daily News)