01/21/2009, 00.00
TAIWAN
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Relatives of former president admit money laundering

Chen's son, daughter-in-law, and son-in-law have admitted to moving money out of the country. At pretrial hearings, Chen reiterates that these are political accusations, fabricated by China and by current president Ma.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) - At a hearing today, three relatives of former Taiwanese president Chen Shuibian pled guilty to money laundering charges. His son Chen Chih-chung, and his wife Huang Jui-chin (in the photo: Chen and Huang), and son-in-law Wu Chin have asked for permission to confer with the prosecutor in order to negotiate a reduced sentence.

They are accused of moving out of the country at least 820 million Taiwanese dollars (about 19 million dollars), the profits of illegal activity. Chen and Huang have offered to recover the money.

Meanwhile, the pretrial hearings are underway in the district court of Taipei against former president Chen, accused of corruption, embezzlement, and money laundering. At the first hearing two days ago, Chen, taken from jail in handcuffs, reiterated his innocence in a climate of elevated tension and conflict.

Yesterday, testimony was heard from two of his close former associates during his eight-year term that ended in May of 2008. The associates are accused of helping him to move 104 million dollars in public funds abroad. Both denied that they stole any money, and insisted that they only carried out specific orders.

If he is found guilty, Chen could receive a life sentence. But he has always denied any responsibility, and has claimed that he is suffering political persecution because of his firm pro-independence and anti-China stance, a persecution backed by current president Ma Ying-jeou in order to satisfy Beijing. Both Ma and China have repeatedly denied the accusation. Two days ago, a book was published that Chen wrote while in prison. In "Cross of Taiwan," he repeats that the accusation is fabricated, and calls upon the people to conduct a referendum against unification with China, to be held in 2012, the year of the presidential election.

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