[JURIST] Former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and 21 co-defendants, including his wife and other relatives, were acquitted on Friday of charges of money laundering, breach of trust and insider trading. Taipei District Court [official website, in Chinese] Judge Chou Chan-chun cited lack of evidence [AFP report] in his ruling, noting that, under the Anti-Corruption Act, the president does not control bank mergers [Taipei Times report] and as such he could not take bribes to influence them. Chen and his wife were accused [Taiwan News report] of taking bribes from banks and financial institutions [JURIST report] that sought to protect themselves during the implementation of Chen’s financial reform program. Prosecutors said the couple took more than $20 million [Taipei Times report] from financial groups that sought to ensure that their mergers with smaller financial institutions went smoothly.
Chen was found guilty on corruption charges and sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report] in September 2009. Chen’s wife was also given a life sentence [Bloomberg report] after the pair were convicted on charges of embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery and money laundering. Chen was also indicted [JURIST report] shortly after his September life sentence on additional corruption charges relating to funds he received while traveling abroad as president. Chen was initially detained in November 2008, and was formally indicted [JURIST report] a month later. In January 2009, he unsuccessfully appealed [JURIST report] his pretrial detention, after staging three hunger strikes in protest. Chen maintains that current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou [official website; JURIST news archive] is using Chen’s trial to distance himself from Chen’s anti-China views. Chen served as president of Taiwan from 2000-2008.