[JURIST] The Taiwan High Court [official website, in Chinese] on Thursday sentenced [press release, in Chinese] former Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile] to 18 years in prison after finding him guilty of financial fraud, overturning a lower court ruling. Members of Chen’s family, including his wife, were also found guilty on corruption charges [ANN report] and given prison sentences ranging from six months to 11 years. A lower court originally acquitted Chen [JURIST report] and 21 other defendants of the charges last November, citing lack of evidence supporting the allegations, and specifically noting that under the country’s 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 of taking $20 million in bribes from banks and financial institutions [JURIST report] that sought to protect themselves during the implementation of Chen’s financial reform program. A spokesperson for the court noted that Chen’s total prison time cannot exceed 30 years [NYT report]. The defendants, including Chen, are able to appeal [Taiwan News report] the court’s ruling.
Chen was found guilty on corruption charges and sentenced to life in prison in September 2009, but the sentence was reduced to 20 years [JURIST reports] in June 2010 after the high court determined he had not embezzled as much money as previously thought. Chen was also indicted [JURIST report] in 2009 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, in Chinese] is using Chen’s trial to distance himself from Chen’s anti-China views. Chen served as president of Taiwan from 2000-2008.