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Prosecutors highlight Chen's taste for the high life
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Business people rushed to deliver expensive jewelry and cardboard boxes stuffed with cash to the tree-canopied mansion of Taiwan's former leader Chen Shui-bian to secure valuable political favors.

Top chefs prepared exotic dishes to tempt the palate - and win the allegiance - of his wheelchair-bound wife.

Those are some of the allegations emerging from a months-long corruption investigation into Chen's activities. While it is still continuing, it reached a climax of sorts last Friday when prosecutors indicted the 57-year-old on charges of embezzlement and laundering bribes.

Chen's wife, together with 13 other family members and close associates, were also indicted.

The 100-page indictment catalogues a litany of alleged offenses and shed new light on Chen's apparent taste for the high life.

Prosecutors say Chen and his wife Wu Shu-chen together embezzled NT$104 million (US$3.12 million) from a special government fund, and received bribes of US$11.73 million in connection with a government land procurement deal and a separate construction project.

Prosecutor Lin Che-hui said a particularly damning piece of evidence was the presence of NT$740 million in cash in a Taipei bank safety vault held by Chen and his wife.

After filing the indictment, Lin and his colleagues said they would be pursuing further charges against Chen and his wife based on a series of allegations submitted by their former allies and business associates.

After being questioned by prosecutors last month, at least two Taiwanese financial executives admitted they delivered cash to Chen's residence or deposited money into his family's overseas accounts.

Through her lawyer, Tu Li-ping, a director of Yuanta Securities, told reporters she delivered NT$200 million in cash to Wu at Chen's residence in 2006 on behalf of executives of an affiliated bank. She said the money was an incentive for Wu not to interfere with a merger.

Taiwanese TV stations also reported that leading business people used expensive gifts and exotic food items to win favors from Wu.

Celebrated chef Yuan Wei-hung told the stations he prepared special dishes, such as braised sea cucumbers and turtle soup, for home delivery by business executives to Wu.

Following the indictment, local media reran Chen's earlier assertions that he cared little about money and was only concerned about the public interest.

"This is a case of how power corrupts a man," said political commentator Yang Hsien-hong. "Chen used his power to amass wealth, and hoped to buy a political comeback with the wealth he amassed."

(Shanghai Daily December 15, 2008)

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