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Former Taiwan president cleared on defamation charges in frigate scandal

[JURIST] The Taipei District Court on Tuesday cleared former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian [official profile; BBC profile] of defamation charges stemming from Taiwan's 1991 purchase of six frigates from France. Six retired Taiwanese admirals filed suit against Chen following his 2005 televised comments [DPA report] suggesting that the group received $20 million in improper kickbacks from the deal. The court held [Radio Australia report] that Chen's comments did not constitute slander because the matter was appropriate for public scrutiny. Following the verdict, one of the five living plaintiffs said the the group will appeal the decision. AFP has more.

The frigate sale launched a major corruption investigation in France into the so-called Clearstream scandal [BBC timeline], implicating then-Interior Minister and current French President Nicolas Sarkozy [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in the kickback scheme. The accusations against Sarkozy resulted in defamation charges [JURIST report] in France, and last month French prosecutors requested the closure of the corruption investigation for lack of evidence [Reuters report]. A Taiwanese investigation resulted in prison terms for nearly 30 officers and arms dealers [RFI report]. Chen remains under investigation for unrelated corruption and embezzlement charges, following high-profile indictments of his family and colleagues. Last year, a high court affirmed the conviction [JURIST report] of Chen's son-in-law on insider trading charges. Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, was indicted [JURIST report] in 2006 for embezzlement and falsifying documents. Chen continues to maintain his innocence [AFP report] on all charges.

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