[JURIST] The Taipei Prosecutors Office [official website] on Wednesday raided the homes of several current and former High Court judges suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for reduced sentencing, and arrested five more suspects in the case. Three judges were arrested [JURIST report] last month on corruption charges. The three judges, all from the Taiwan High Court [official website, in Chinese] are believed to have accepted more than NT $5 million (USD $155,000) offered to them by Ho Chi-hui in return for a not-guilty verdict granted in May. Ho, a former legislator, had been appealing a 19-year sentence and NT $220 million (USD $6.8 million) fine handed down in 2004 [CNA report] in relation to a corrupt land-development project. The judges were suspended following their arrest. A fourth High Court judge is also under investigation, but has not been arrested. The arrests prompted President Ma Ying-jeou [official website] to form a division of the Justice Ministry dedicated to corruption. A total of 18 locations were searched [Taiwan News report] on Wednesday in Taipei and the surrounding counties, seeking evidence of the deals.
The arrests came just one month after the High Court denied the bail request [JURIST report] of former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who is appealing a 20-year conviction for corruption and embezzlement. Chen was originally sentenced to life imprisonment, but the court reduced his sentence [JURIST reports] in June after finding that he had not embezzled as much money as previously thought. Chen was originally found guilty on corruption charges and sentenced to life in prison in September. His wife was also given a life sentence [CNA report] after the pair were convicted on charges of embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery and money laundering. Chen has maintained his innocence against all charges, claiming that Ma is using Chen’s trial to distance himself from Chen’s anti-China views. Chen was also indicted in December for allegedly embezzling USD $20 million from banks [JURIST report] that sought to protect themselves during Chen’s financial reform program.