In May 2008, Taiwanese prosecutors launched a corruption probe against Chen Shui-bian hours after he completed his second term as Taiwan’s president. Prosecutors are looking into whether he embezzled money while serving as president and whether his family members and aides were involved in laundering millions of dollars worth of campaign funds. About a dozen high-ranking members of Chen’s party—the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—were detained on charges related to corruption after the Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, regained the presidency in the May 2008 elections. Critics of the KMT said the charges were politically motivated. Chen’s wife, son, daughter and brother- in-law were also charged with corruption. Analysts said arrests have highlighted problems with Taiwanese law and the country's judicial system.

Associated Press reported: “The Supreme Prosecutors Office, which reports directly to the Supreme Court, said in a statement that Chen was being investigated for his role in the handling of a special presidential fund used to pursue Taiwan's foreign diplomacy. "The office has assigned ... a seven-member investigative unit to take charge of the case," it said. The investigation relates the alleged embezzlement of $484,000. Chen's wife was indicted in December 2006 over the fund's handling. At the time, prosecutors said Chen could be indicted once he left office, ending his presidential immunity. [Source: Associated Press, May 20, 2008]

“The probe is a further blow to Chen's legacy, already in tatters over the indictment of several members of his inner circle on graft charges, and the conviction of his son-in-law for insider trading. Taiwanese analysts agree that the atmosphere of corruption pervading the Chen administration was a major reason behind the defeat of his Democratic Progressive Party in legislative and presidential elections 2008. March. Chen was replaced by Ma Ying-jeou, who used his inaugural address to pledge himself to clean politics and public accountability. [Ibid]

Chen called his prosecution a political witch hunt to punish him for angering China with his moves to push for Taiwan independence while he was in office from 2000 to 2008. He alleged that other officials who have misspent funds or taken bribes have not been prosecuted. In addition, the Taipei Times reported: “Chen Shui-bian’s office criticized the judiciary for leaking details of the case and expressed regret over media reports that the office said distorted the facts. In a statement, the office expressed displeasure with leaks of what had been said by witnesses in interviews and suggested that prosecutors might have deliberately leaked the information to reporters. “We would like to call on the public to stop and condemn such an act,” the statement said. The office also criticized media outlets that they said had drawn false conclusions and distorted the testimony of witnesses.” <>

Paul Mooney wrote in The National, Chen “Although some analysts said there was no evidence to prove the KMT was behind the arrests, critics said they were indeed political. "It has all the appearances of being politically motivated," said Gerrit van der Wees, of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs in Washington, an organisation dedicated to protecting the right to self-determination for the people of Taiwan. "Only DPP members have been detained and arrested and there are no cases proceeding against KMT members. And that's very strange." June Teufel Dreyer, a professor of political science at the University of Miami, said, "The arrests are so widespread and seem to be purposely carried out to humiliate people, and to my mind there is no doubt they were politically motivated." [Source: Paul Mooney, The National, November 18, 2008]

“Some of those arrested have connections with the use of a special state fund used to engage in "money diplomacy". Most prominent is Chiou I-jen, a former National Security Council secretary general and former deputy prime minister. Ms Dreyer said the funds were established to counter what she calls Beijing's "attempt to squeeze Taiwan out of existence". "What you have here is not so much Chiou being corrupt, but being put into a position where fighting back is not possible except by using bribery," she said. Other people who know Mr Chiou were surprised at his arrest. "Anyone that knows him knows that he leads a very simple life that is politically orientated," said Bruce Jacobs, a professor of Asian languages and studies at Monash University in Melbourne. "The [diplomacy] policy may have been stupid, but I can't believe he was fundamentally corrupt." Mr Van der Wees said some of those arrested were questioned for hours without a lawyer and were "squeezed for information that could be used in their indictment later. The procedure is absolutely ludicrous." Mr van der Wees said if there are concerns about corruption, the suspects should be charged and tried by a court. Mr Ma and the KMT have denied the arrests are politically motivated. However, some analysts said the campaign may be the work of an overzealous judiciary system. Antonio Chiang, a leading political commentator with the Apple Daily in Taipei, said the judicial system was "running on autopilot". He said judges and prosecutors were poorly trained, the judiciary was short staffed and there was no system of checks and balances. Mr van der Wees said it was now "open season against the DPP"and criticised the president and the ministry of justice for not taking a stand against the method of arrests. "The MoJ has not stepped up to do anything and so it seems complicit in allowing this to go on," he said. [Ibid]

Chen’s Son-in-Law Sentenced to Six Years in Prison

In December 2006, Chen’s son-in-law was sentenced to six years in prison for insider trading. The China Daily reported: “Chao Chien-ming, a doctor suspended by the Taiwan University Hospital over the scandal, was also fined 30 million Taiwan dollars (US$917,000) following the verdict by a court in Taipei. He was convicted of making gains valued at 4.27 million Taiwan dollars (US$131,000) through the illegal deal, said Liu Shou-song of the Taipei district court. Chao's father Chao Yu-chu was sentenced to five and a half years in prison in the same case and was given a further three years in jail for embezzling 11 million Taiwan dollars (US$336,000) in private donations to a tennis association and some political funds donated to the "president." He was also fined 30 million Taiwan dollars, Liu said. [Source: China Daily, December 28, 2006 ==]

“Chao and his father did not show up at the court and are expected to appeal against the rulings. "Chao Chien-ming failed to behave decently... using his power and influence to seek personal gains," the verdict said. Prosecutors had originally sought a nine-year jail term for Chao and a 10-year prison sentence for his father for making illegal gains through insider trading. Five other defendants involved in the same scandal received jail terms ranging from 18 months to four years and three months. Both the Kuomintang and Chen's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said they respected the ruling. ==

“Lawmaker Lai Shyh-bao of Kuomintang (KMT) said he applauded the court for giving a tough sentence. "This shows that the court is fair and just and is unaffected by those in power," he said. Chao was arrested in May on suspicion of insider trading and taking bribes and was later released on bail. Chen has apologized for the political turmoil caused by his son-in-law but he himself was later implicated in graft scandals centred on his wife. Chen's wheelchair-bound wife Wu Shu-chen was excused from the second hearing of her trial last week after doctors at the Taiwan University Hospital, where she is being treated, advised her not to go. The corruption charge against her carries a minimum jail term of seven years.” ==

Chen Shui-bian Son and In-Laws Admit Money Laundering

In January 2009, Chen Shui-bian’s son, Chen Chih-chung, daughter-in-law, Huang Jui-ching, and former first lady Wu Shu-jen’s brother, Wu Ching-mao, told a judge during a pre-trial hearing at the Taipei District Court that they might have been involved in money laundering. The China Post reported: “A judge has to accept a statement before it can constitute a formal plea, a court spokesman said. “I didn’t differentiate clearly between laundering money and handling funds,” Chen Chih-chung told reporters in the lobby of the court building after the two-hour hearing. Standing next to his wife, who choked back tears, he said: “If it could be done all over, we absolutely would not make the same kind of mistake again.” “I am very sorry about the whole thing. My wife and I will do whatever we can to help prosecutors clarify the details of the case,” Chen Chih-chung told reporters. [Source: China Post, January 22, 2009 ><]

“Chen Chih-chung and Huang were indicted for money laundering in connection with the moving of money overseas. Chen Shui-bian has denied the accusations, but has admitted sending the money overseas, saying it was leftover campaign contributions. During the hearing, Chen Chih-chung told judges that prosecutors already knew about his bank accounts in Switzerland and the US, adding that he did not have any bank accounts in Japan or in any other country. Chen Chih-chung also promised judges he would sign all related agreements and authorization forms regarding the money — NT$700 million — which is still frozen in his Swiss bank accounts and for a separate amount of NT$570 million in another foreign account. ><

“The Special Investigation Panel said the couple identified the flow of NT$570 million in a deposition on Dec. 18, but had only agreed to have it returned to Taiwan recently. Prosecutors believe the funds, which have not been frozen by Swiss authorities, may be kickbacks from Taiwanese businesses for preferential treatment.” ><

In November 2009, AFP reported: “Information from the Swiss authorities indicates that the son of Taiwan’s convicted ex-president played a ‘leading role’ in laundering US$21 million (S$29 million), a newspaper reported. In 2008, Taiwan prosecutors sought Swiss help with their probe into allegations that the Chen family illegally wired abroad and deposited US$21 million in Swiss bank accounts.‘After a year, the Swiss authorities delivered to Taiwan a box of information regarding the bank accounts,’ the China Times said. An initial review of the related documents indicate that Chen Chih-chung had played a leading role in laundering the money,’ it said, adding that prosecutors hoped this would give them solid evidence to challenge the appeal. [Source: AFP, November 22, 2009]

Trial of Chen Shui-ban ‘s Wife

In February 2009, Wu Shu-chen, Chen Shui-ban’s wife and the former Taiwanese first lady, pleaded guilty to money-laundering and forgery but denied embezzlement charges in her high-profile corruption case. The BBC reported: “Wu Shu-chen said she had accepted a $2.2m (£1.5m) political donation in connection with a land purchase deal - not a bribe as alleged by prosecutors. She admitted charges of forging documents in a separate case but denied using the money for personal gain. It was the first time Wu Shu-chen had appeared in court for two years. She was indicted in 2006 for allegedly embezzling 14.8m Taiwan dollars ($440,000) in public funds. But she collapsed at the start of her trial later that year and has been excused from attending court sessions on health grounds. [Source: BBC, February 10, 2009]

In January 2009, Chen Chih-chung (Chen Shui-ban’ son) told judges that Wu Shu-jen possesses a large quantity of jewels worth at least NT$600 million. The jewels are in the care of a friend of Wu Shu-jen’s in Japan, he said. “These jewels will be shipped back to Taiwan as soon as possible,” he said. Chen Chih-chung said that Wu Shu-jen would donate all the money to charity if investigations proved the money was clean. “We apologize to the public. My mother also told me to inform your honors that she will try to attend every hearing,” Chen Chih-chung said in court. [Source: China Post, January 22, 2009]

On Wu Shu-chen’s trial in 2006, Associated Press reported: “ Taiwan's wheelchair-bound first lady passed out during the first session of her embezzlement and forgery trial, and she was taken immediately to a hospital. Television footage showed the 54-year-old Wu Shu-chen being carried out of the court by an unidentified woman and loaded into an ambulance waiting outside the courthouse in downtown Taipei. As she was placed in the ambulance, her eyes were closed and she did not appear to be moving. [Source: Associated Press, December 15, 2006 |::|]

“Wu's trial began in the shadow of her precarious physical condition, and doubts about her ability to hold up in the face of an expected firestorm of media attention. She was paralysed from the waist down when a truck ran her over in 1985" in what Chen called an assassination attempt on him. “In recent months Wu has appeared frail and sickly, with some reports placing her weight at less than 30 kilograms. Shortly after the trial began, Wu pleaded not guilty to the charges against her. |::|

“She was indicted on November 3, 2006 with three former presidential aides on charges of skimming 14.8 million New Taiwan dollars (US$450,000) from a special presidential fund used to sustain Taiwanese diplomatic activities abroad. The aides - Chen Cheng-hui, Lin Teh-hsun, Ma Yung-cheng also pleaded not guilty. Wu arrived at the courthouse near the Presidential Office building in downtown Taipei shortly after 9:30 AM and was seen chatting with aides. Seated in her wheelchair, she was lowered electronically from her specially equipped van and wheeled past security officials toward the courtroom. Her attendance at the proceedings had been in doubt until the last minute because of concerns over her health. |::|

“Her trial began amid declining public support for the physician's daughter from southern Taiwan, who was once widely respected for the considerable suffering she endured. Sympathy for her began to recede in 2005 and early 2006 when it was alleged she had used insider information to make large amounts of money on the stock market, and had been given expensive gift vouchers from an upscale Taipei department store in exchange for helping to arrange for a change in its ownership. Wu has also been pilloried in the Taiwanese media over her collection of upmarket jewellery, which includes an expensive Breguet watch.” |::|

Chen Shui-bian Goes on Hunger Strike After Being Detained

In November 2008, Chen Shui-bian was detained by police in Taipei after prosecutors sought his formal arrest on corruption and money laundering charges, according to Taipei television. David Barboza wrote in the New York Times, “Mr. Chen was led to court in handcuffs. He paused briefly before cameras, raised his arms up over his head and shouted: “Long Live Taiwanese independence” and “political oppression.” The detention was part of a widening corruption investigation that has already ensnared several of Mr. Chen’s senior aides, as well as his wife, son, daughter and brother- in-law, each of whom has been named a defendant in the case. Mr. Chen’s wife is now on trial in Taipei for money laundering. [Source: David Barboza, New York Times, November 11, 2008]

Chen was held without charge pending further investigations. “Mr. Chen, 57, has denied any wrongdoing and accused his successor, Ma Ying-jeou, and the ruling Koumintang Party of a politically motivated attack on him and his family and suggested that his strong support for Taiwan’s independence , behind the investigation. Mr. Ma succeeded Mr. Chen in May and has pushed for warmer relations between mainland China and Taiwan. [Ibid]

After he was taken into custody Chen went on hunger strike, his lawyer said. The BBC reported: “Cheng Wen-lung said his client had not eaten since being sent to Tucheng jail in suburban Taipei early. He said his client wanted to "protest the death of justice". Mr Chen, who has not yet been formally charged, says he is being persecuted by his successors for his fierce opposition to closer ties with Beijing. But that charge has been flatly denied by both the Chinese government and by Taiwan's current President Ma Ying-jeou, of the Nationalist Kuomingtang party (KMT). [Source: BBC, November 13, 2008]

Mr Chen was dramatically handcuffed and detained by prosecutors and sent to jail, since when he has not eaten, Mr Cheng said. He wants to "protest the death of justice and the regression of democracy", Mr Cheng said, according to the AP news agency. "He opposed the authoritarian [Nationalist] regime in Taiwan and the Communist regime [in China] and he wants sovereignty for Taiwan," Mr Cheng added. He added that his client was in an "OK" condition for the time being. Mr Chen could face up to four months in detention without charge to prevent him colluding with alleged conspirators. He is accused of money laundering and illegally using a special presidential fund. But his supporters say his detention represents a breach to his human rights. Some say they plan to protest on Saturday outside the jail in which he is being held. [Ibid]

A week after being detained Chen, still on a hunger strike, was hospitalized. Paul Mooney wrote in The National, Chen “vowed to carry on a hunger strike to protest against his arrest on what he calls politically motivated charges of corruption, despite being taken to hospital. Mr Chen told doctors he would continue to refuse food. He was taken to hospital on Sunday night, five days after he began a hunger strike, and accepted glucose and saline injections to stabilise his deteriorating condition. [Source: Paul Mooney, The National, November 18, 2008]

As of May 2009, Chen was still detained. At that time had launched another hunger strike. Associated Press reported: “A Taiwanese TV station has reported that Chen has been hospitalized after a three-day hunger strike in his detention center. Chen has been detained since last December after he was arrested on several corruption charges. He has been indicted and is currently on trial. He said in a statement earlier this week that he was on a hunger strike to protest what he called his political persecution by the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou. [Source: Associated Press, May 8, 2009]

Chen Shui-bian Trial Opens

Chen was indicted on December 12, 2008—seven months after he stepped down as president— on money laundering, corruption and forgery charges involving nearly half a billion Taiwan dollars, becoming the first former president in Taiwan's history to be put on trial for criminal offenses. The China Post reported: Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen “were indicted on charges of embezzling NT$104 million (US$3 million) from a special presidential fund. They are also accused of accepting NT$100 million in bribes and US$6 million in connection with a land procurement deal, as well as US$2.73 million in kickbacks to help a contractor win the tender for a government construction project. Chen pleaded not guilty to charges of receiving bribes. Chen family members have acknowledged wiring millions of dollars overseas in violation of Taiwan’s financial regulations, but have insisted that the money represented political contributions, not bribes. [Source: China Post, January 22, 2009]

In March 2009, Chen Shui-ban’s corruption trial opened in a heavily guarded Taipei courtroom, hours after Chen said the proceedings were a “tool for political suppression and persecution” by his successor. Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times, “Mr. Chen, who claimed the presidency in 2000 with a pledge to end political corruption, faces charges of bribery and embezzlement that could draw a sentence of life in prison. He resigned from Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party in August 2008 after admitting that his wife had wired 700 million Taiwanese dollars ($21 million) in campaign funds to accounts in Singapore, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. Prosecutors since have charged that he stole or took bribes totaling more than a billion Taiwanese dollars ($30 million), sometimes in return for political favors involving land deals. His wife, Wu Shu-chen, his son and his daughter-in-law pleaded guilty to money laundering, and Mrs. Wu also pleaded guilty to forgery. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, March 26, 2009 /*/]

“But Mr. Chen has insisted that he is innocent, saying his wife, then Taiwan’s first lady, handled campaign money and that he was ignorant of the dealings. He has maintained the charges are a plot by Taiwan’s current president, Ma Ying-jeou, to win favor with China’s government. During his eight years in office, Mr. Chen was a fierce advocate of independence from China.” Before the trial “Mr. Chen issued a statement in which he charged that his conviction “was prepared in advance and the sentence was already determined.” “In order to win favors and protection from Beijing, the KMT” — the Kuomintang, Mr. Ma’s political party — “has launched a purge against me.” /*/

Although the evidence against Mr. Chen is strong, some analysts have said, the government’s handling of the case has been less than deft. Prosecutors were criticized after they participated in a skit before hundreds of Justice Ministry officials which clearly mocked Mr. Chen. Mr. Chen has won sympathy by claiming that his detention without bail — and, at first, without any contact with his family — has been unjustly harsh. /*/

Mr. Chen was brought to court in Taipei surrounded by guards and in handcuffs. J. Bruce Jacobs, a Taiwan scholar at Australia’s Monash University, is among about 20 experts who recently sent letters to Taiwan’s justice minister and President Ma raising concerns about the fairness of the prosecution. “The prosecutors have been going a bit wild,” he said, “and how this trial is conducted will be critical. This is an important landmark in Taiwan’s whole process of democratization.” /*/

“The trial opened with testimony from a businessman who said he had arranged a Taipei land deal in which the land’s owner offered Ms. Wu a $11.8 million “commission” in 2003 to push the government to purchase the property. Mr. Chen testified that he knew his wife had received 200 million Taiwanese dollars for the sale, but he denied that the businessman, Tsai Ming-chieh, had talked to him about it.” /*/

Taiwanese Prosecutors Mock Chen Shui-bian Before His Trial

Before Chen Shui-ban’s trial, Keith Bradsher wrote in the New York Times, “Most people in Taiwan have seen the image of former President Chen Shui-bian holding his handcuffed wrists above his head and shouting “political persecution” when he was arrested on corruption charges. So a scene in a skit performed in January 2009 in front of more than 200 of the island’s judges and prosecutors — some involved in deciding Mr. Chen’s fate in his coming trial — came as a surprise. A prosecutor acting in the skit held her wrists together over her head and yelled, “judicial persecution.” Legal experts here and around the world cite the skit, perceived as prosecutors mocking their prisoner, as one of several incidents that raise troubling questions about whether the rule of law is being followed in the proceedings against Mr. Chen. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, February 20, 2009 <=>]

“The skit, performed at a Law Day party, was written by a Taipei prosecutor who has helped gather information on overseas bank accounts held by Mr. Chen’s family... Another prosecutor, not involved in Mr. Chen’s case, performed in the skit. “They made fun of Chen together; it’s not professional,” said Lin Feng-jeng, the executive director of the Judicial Reform Foundation, a nonprofit group in Taiwan seeking to bring the island’s law closer to international standards. <=>

“Wu Chen-huan, the vice minister of justice for administration of Taiwan’s prosecutors, said he had attended the gathering and had not immediately interpreted the raised wrists as a reference to Mr. Chen’s case. He also said the scene had been improvised by the prosecutor who acted in the skit, and had not been written by the prosecutor actually helping with Mr. Chen’s case. <=>

Questions Raised by the Chen Shui-bian Case

Keith Bradsher wrote in the New York Times, Chen Shui-ban’s “case has emerged as a difficult test of a society that has emerged as one of the freest, most vibrant democracies in Asia. A panel of judges must decide the fate of Taiwan’s single most divisive politician, Mr. Chen, who insists that he is innocent. Mr. Chen’s case has been widely reported in mainland China, where Beijing officials reviled him for seeking greater independence for Taiwan during his eight years as president. So the unusual public discussion in Taiwan over the treatment of Mr. Chen since he left office could influence the evolving debate on the mainland over whether to strengthen the legal rights of individuals under criminal investigation. “It has put criminal justice, especially criminal procedure, on the map in Taiwan, and this is something that would be wonderful to see on the mainland,” said Jerome A. Cohen, a law professor at New York University who specializes in the legal systems of Taiwan and the mainland. [Source: Keith Bradsher, New York Times, February 20, 2009 <=>]

“The case has prompted broader concerns about Taiwan’s legal code. Its detention and criminal procedure laws were drafted in the 1930s and early ‘40s by Chinese Nationalist legal scholars who mainly looked to Nazi Germany for ideas. The Nationalists lost China’s civil war to the Communists and retreated to Taiwan, which they ruled under martial law until 1987, but essentially the same laws remain on the books. The Justice Ministry now acknowledges shortcomings in the way the island treats those under investigation. “Some treatment maybe is not following international standards,” Mr. Wu said. <=>

“When Mr. Chen was first detained, he was held incommunicado without bail at a prisonlike government detention center for more than a month. He was forbidden to speak to anyone except his lawyer on the grounds that he might otherwise arrange for the destruction of evidence. When his lawyer, Jerry Cheng, did come to the detention center, their meetings were videotaped and two prosecutors sat in. Mr. Cheng said this had inhibited his client’s effort to develop a legal strategy. Mr. Chen is still in detention, but under less strict rules. Family members and legislators are now allowed to visit him. Prosecutors no longer attend or record his meetings with his defense lawyer, although two guards stay in the room during these meetings and the door must stay open, Mr. Cheng said. <=>

“Mr. Wu said the Justice Ministry had reviewed Taiwan’s legal code and drafted changes for the legislature to approve. The government still wants the courts to be allowed to hold defendants incommunicado for as long as four months in complex cases. But detention centers will no longer record defendants’ conversations with their defense lawyers unless specifically directed to do so by a judge or prosecutor. <=>

“Another worry about the current prosecution of Mr. Chen is purely political: Some members of Mr. Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party warn that it is creating a precedent for the prosecution of former presidents as soon as they leave office. President Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party, in an interview last week, rejected accusations that the case against Mr. Chen was politically motivated. He pointed out that prosecutors began investigating Mr. Chen and his family while Mr. Chen was still in office. “I will do everything in my power to maintain judicial impartiality. This is vital to our democracy,” Mr. Ma said. <=>

“While President Ford pardoned former President Richard M. Nixon without a trial in 1974 after the Watergate scandal, Taiwanese law allows a pardon only after someone has been convicted of a crime. That has led many to wonder if Mr. Chen may negotiate a deal in which he will plead guilty to some offenses in exchange for an immediate pardon. But his lawyer said that no negotiations had been held. In the meantime, Taiwan’s prosecutors and judges have been strongly warned about any further attempts to express their thespian talents. “We asked them to avoid similar misunderstandings — if there is any opportunity for this kind of play again,” Mr. Wu said. “ <=>

Charge’s Against Chen Shui-ban’s Family and Aides

The China Post reported: “Wu Shu-jen was indicted Nov. 3, 2006 for embezzling NT$14.8 million from the state affairs fund, but Chen Shui-bian was not charged at the time because he held presidential immunity. Also indicted at that time were three close aides of the former president -- cashier Chen Chen-hui, Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Ma Yung-cheng, and the director of the president's office Lin Teh-hsun. They were accused of helping Wu claim reimbursement from the state affairs funds using the receipts of other individuals. Prosecutors from the Special Investigation Division under the Supreme Prosecutors Office also formally charged Chen's wife Wu Shu-jen, his son Chen Chih-chung and his daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching, for their involvement in the case and recommended they receive "harsh penalties." [Source: China Post, September 11, 2009 |=|]

“In addition, prosecutors indicted 10 other individuals for their involvement in the former first family's alleged corruption and money-laundering schemes. The indictment charged Chen Shui-bian and his wife of illegally receiving or embezzling NT$490 million, including NT$204.15 million and US$8.73 million, some of which was sent overseas. Of that total, the indictment reads, NT$104.15 million was embezzled from the state affairs fund set aside for the president's discretionary use during his eight years in office from 2000 to 2008. Prosecutors charge that more than NT$27 million of that was obtained by using inappropriate receipts to claim reimbursement from the fund, nearly double the NT$14.8 million Wu was originally indicted for embezzling from the fund in 2006. |=|

“The balance, or more than NT$76 million, was claimed by Presidential Office cashier Chen Chen-hui as "secret funds" from the state affairs fund and handed over to Wu Shu-jen to pay for the family's daily living expenses and other uses, the indictment alleges. The ex-first family allegedly received another NT$100 million and US$6 million in kickbacks from a total payoff of US$11.98 million by a development company called "Dayu" to pave the way for the Hsinchu Science Park to buy a plot of land held by Dayu in Taoyuan County at a price prosecutors believe was unreasonably high. The balance of the bribe money was pocketed by James Lee, then-chief of the Hsinchu Science Park, and Tsai Ming-jhe, who transferred the kickback to accounts held by ex-first family members, prosecutors charged. |=|

“The indictment accuses the former first family of collecting another US$2.73 million in bribes from contractor Kuo Chuan-ching to help him win a tender to build the Nangang Exhibition Hall between 2003 and 2004. Prosecutors believe Kuo won the contract by bribing members of a panel organized by the Ministry of Interior to assess the bidding after then-Interior Minister Yu Cheng-hsien revealed the list of panel members to Kuo at the request of Wu Shu-jen. |=|

“The other 10 defendants included Wu Shu-jen's brother Wu Ching-mao, her sister-in-law Chen Chun-ying, her university classmate Tsai Mei-li, and Tsai's brothers Tsai Ming-jhe and Tsai Ming-jie. They were all charged with helping the ex-first family collect bribes and wire them abroad. The 10 also included the former president's aides Chen Chen-hui, Ma and Lin. Former Interior Minister Yu Cheng-hsien was separately indicted by the Taipei District Prosecutors Office for leaking secrets.” |=|

Evidence Against Chen Shui-ban and His Family Members and Aides

The China Post reported: “Prosecutors accused Chen and Wu of taking bribes of NT$310 million (US$9.47 million) from two local business tycoons. One of them is Diana Chen, the former chairwoman of Taipei 101 tower; the other is Jeffrey Koo Jr., former vice chairman of the Chinatrust Financial Holding Co. Prosecutors said in their indictment that Diana Chen delivered a check of NT$10 million under the name of a friend -- Chen Chin-wen -- to Wu Shu-jen's brother Wu Jin-mao in 2004. In return for the money, prosecutors said, Chen Shui-bian abused his power to press then-Finance Minister Lin Chuan to appoint Diana Chen as the chairwoman of the state-controlled Grand Cathay Securities Corp. The then-finance minister named Diana Chen to head the Taipei 101 instead because of difficulties in convincing major stock holders of Grand Cathay to accept her at the time. [Source: China Post, September 11, 2009 |=|]

“Furthermore, prosecutors said the former first couple had asked for political contributions from Jeffrey Koo Jr. since 2002 under the pretext that the money would be used to help finance Chen's election campaigns or the country's secret diplomatic activities. Koo, who often visited the first family at their official residence at the time, had delivered NT$290 million in seven contributions to the first family. Koo fled to Japan in 2007 after being probed for insider trading in an unrelated case and was asked by Chen Shui-bian for more contributions under the excuse of helping with the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party's unsuccessful 2008 presidential election, according to the indictment. As a result, Koo made a donation of NT$10 million to Chen, for which the prosecutors said the ex-president and his wife should face a charge of exacting illegal profit. Jeffrey Koo Jr. and Diana Chen were not charged in the case. |=|

“The money came to light thanks to the Egmont Group, an international anti-money laundering group, which alerted Taiwanese authorities to the ex-first family's overseas bank accounts in 2008. The case has mushroomed into a political scandal, as more local business tycoons were found to have made huge contributions to Chen, allegedly in return for the ex-president's favors. |=|

In August 2008, the Taipei Times reported: “Yeh Sheng-mao, former head of the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau, was indicted for withholding information about Chen Shui-bian’s possible involvement in money laundering. Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office spokesman Lin Chin-chun said prosecutors were seeking a jail term of two years and six months for Yeh. Lin said Yeh, who stepped down from his post as bureau chief on July 16, withheld information about overseas bank accounts in the names of Chen’s family members.” [Source: Taipei Times, August 29, 2008 <>]

In July 2008, “two Swiss prosecutors asked Taiwanese authorities for help investigating a case of suspected money laundering, with US$21 million reportedly placed in Swiss bank accounts in the name of Chen Shui-bian’s daughter-in-law. Lin said it was not the first time that Yeh, who was appointed in 2001 by Chen Shui-bian to head the bureau, had withheld information about the former first family. In 2006, the bureau failed to pass on to prosecutors information it had obtained about possible money laundering by first lady Wu Shu-jen, Lin said. <>

“Chen Shui-bian has insisted he is innocent and that the funds involved were simply campaign contributions that he is allowed to keep under Taiwanese law. He has said he was not aware of his wife allegedly accepting any bribes. The former president admitted on August 14 that his wife had remitted more than US$20 million overseas, but said the funds were surplus contributions to his campaigns for Taipei City mayor in 1994 and 1998 and the presidency in 2000 and 2004. |=|

Chen Shui-ban and Wife Given Life Sentences

Chen received a life sentence, a fine of NT$200 million (approximately US$6.1 million), and had his civil rights annulled for life. His wife received a nearly identical sentence, albeit with a larger fine (NT$300 million). His son was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and fined NT$150 million, while his daughter-in-law received one year and eight months while being fined the same amount. Other members of Chen’s staff received lengthy jail terms, with the exception of an accountant who turned state’s evidence. A prisoner serving a life sentence has the opportunity of being granted parole after spending 15 years in jail. Chen has been detained in a suburban Taipei jail since December 2008.[Source: Paul R Katz, China Beat, September 15, 2009]

Chen Chih-chung—Chen Shui-ban’s son—was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to jail in September. The family has launched an appeal, with Chen junior claiming he had a ‘passive role’ in the affair and was only acting on the instructions of his wheelchair-bound mother.

The China Post reported: “Ex-president Chen Shui-bian and his wife Wu Shu-jen were both given life sentences and fined NT$200 million (US$6.13 million) and NT$300 million respectively after being found guilty by the Taipei District Court on corruption, forgery and money-laundering charges. Anticipating that he would be found guilty, the former president said prior to the verdict's announcement that he would appeal it. More than 100 supporters of the president gathered outside the courthouse, chanting slogans and holding up banners demanding that the court free Chen and insisting on his innocence. Instead of seeking a specifically defined sentence, the prosecutors are seeking the "harshest penalty" for Taiwan's former leader. [Source: China Post, September 11, 2009 |=|]

Before his sentence was given Chen wrote in the first issue of the relaunched pro-democracy Neo Formosa Weekly: “Let it be. At least my heart is free. Everything is changing now and I believe there will be changes soon.” He wrote he was victim of “political persecution, regardless of the accusation...Now I am writing this article in my tiny cell...What irony that Taiwan’s democracy has regressed so much.” [Source: Ko Shu-ling, Taipei Times, September 11, 2009]

“Wu Shu-jen who was also accused of coaching her son Chen Chih-chung, her daughter Chen Hsing-yu and her son-in-law Chao Chien-ming to lie to prosecutors during their probe into the case, was convicted of perjury on Sept. 1 and sentenced to a year in prison. Chen Chih-chung, Chen Hsing-yu and Chao Chien-ming were each given six-month jail terms in the same trial. The sentences can all be appealed. |=|

“As for the other 10 defendants, the prosecutor asked the court to hand down lenient punishments or spare them because they have shown remorse and thoroughly testified to their roles in the case. They included Wu Shu-jen's brother Wu Ching-mao, her sister-in-law Chen Chun-ying, her university classmate Tsai Mei-li, and Tsai's brothers Tsai Ming-jhe and Tsai Ming-jie. They were all charged with helping the ex-first family collect bribes and wire them abroad. The 10 also included the former president's aides Chen Chen-hui, Ma and Lin. |=|

Did Chen Shui-bian Get a Fair Trial?

According to Associated Press: While most Taiwanese believe that Chen is guilty of at least some of the charges against him, critics say that the legal process has been partisan and unfair. They point to the replacement of the three-judge panel that originally ordered him released on his own recognizance, the selective leaking of negative material on Chen to the press, and a skit mocking the former leader mounted by Justice Ministry officials, including one of the prosecutors investigating his case. [Source: Associated Press, June 11, 2010]

At the conclusion of the Chen Shui-ban trial, Paul R Katz wrote in China Beat: “The first trial of former President Chen Shui-bian, some of his family members, and other defendants has run its course. At this point in time, the following questions seem worth consideration: Is Chen guilty? Difficult to answer convincingly unless one possesses the Chinese language skills and legal knowledge necessary to plough through all court documents, not to mention the 1,000+ page verdict (longer even than some doctoral theses at my alma mater Princeton). The case is clearly quite complicated, especially since Taiwan’s anti-corruption laws have been evolving over the past decade, meaning that some alleged crimes may not have been illegal when they were committed. However, at the very least Chen is guilty of misdeeds that have deeply disappointed and betrayed the trust of so many Taiwanese citizens who elected him President in 2000 and 2004. Even close supporters have issued calls for Chen and his family members to make public apologies for their actions. [Source: Paul R Katz, China Beat, September 15, 2009. Katz is a research fellow at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, and an expert on Chinese religion *-*]

“Did he get a fair trial? A judgment call, but concerns have been raised about the length of his detention (over ten months now) and other aspects of the legal process. According to one article published in The Economist, while most Taiwanese believe that Chen was involved in some form of wrongdoing, there are concerns over whether he was treated impartially, particularly when a panel of judges that had ordered his release from detention was “mysteriously and secretively replaced” by a new panel, which subsequently presided over the trial. *-*

“Was the sentence too harsh? Hardly any Taiwanese politician found guilty of corruption has been condemned to such a lengthy prison term, while Chen’s wife and children are also facing long sentences and fines exceeding millions of US dollars. The Los Angeles Times called the sentence “unexpectedly stiff”, while the Associated Press noted that its severity has caused some to believe that Chen was being “…persecuted for his pro-independence views and his central role in ending the 50-year monopoly on power of the now-resurgent Nationalists.” *-*

“Will he appeal? He is certain to do so (especially since he apparently gave up on winning the first trial a long time ago). In Taiwan, cases are regularly overturned on appeal, so this is far from over. It is also interesting to note that, just prior to the verdict and sentencing, one of President Ma Ying-jeou’s mentors, Harvard University law professor Jerome A. Cohen, visited Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Chin-ping and opined that it would be a good idea to arrange for the conditional release of Chen during the appeals process, so that he could mount an effective legal defense. *-*

“How does Chen’s sentencing affect the KMT? While it certainly pleases the party’s base and provides a distraction from the government’s initial response to the devastation wrought by Typhoon Morakot, the sentence’s impact on independent voters is unclear. How does his sentencing impact the DPP? Some of its leaders probably wish the case would go away, as it reminds voters of the disillusionment that caused them to cast the DPP out of power in 2008. It remains to be seen whether Chen’s sentence (and those of the other defendants) will mobilize some of the party’s base and independent voters, who recall the days of the White Terror when Taiwanese elites were also subject to long prison sentences following judicial procedures that failed to convince the public of their fairness. *-*

Will other politicians be held to the same strict standards? Chen’s trial and sentencing may mark the start of a rigorous anti-corruption drive, and perhaps we will see crooked politicians from both parties being subjected to lengthy detentions and harsh prison terms…but…since 2008, politicians prosecuted and detained on corruption charges since have tended to be DPP members. How has the case shaped popular views of the judicial system? This depends on whom you ask, and whether the question focuses on the outcome or the process. Some view Chen’s sentencing as a powerful statement of how Taiwan’s judiciary has proven independent enough to pass judgment on a former president, while others see it as an indication of the judicial system’s once again being wielded as a tool for the state to use against its enemies. *-*

Chen Shui-ban’s Trial a Test of Democracy

After the sentencing of Chen Shui-ban and the other defendants, AFP reported: “The trial of former president Chen was a test of Taiwan’s young democracy — and the country received just average marks, observers say. Questions remain over whether his life sentence was a sign of a healthy legal system or reflected serious problems with the independence of the judiciary. “One may see a banana republic,” said Murray Rubinstein, a history professor at Baruch College who has written or edited several books on Taiwan’s history and politics. “But I remain an optimist and see it all as a painful learning curve — and this trial is just the latest step in this process.” [Source: AFP, September 14, 2009 ~/~]

“The judiciary did what it was designed to in the Chen case, but could have done much better, Judicial Reform Foundation director Lin Feng-cheng said. “The case shows that nobody is above the law and that even a former president can be tried under Taiwan’s judicial system, which is progress for the rule of law,” Lin said. “However, there were many problems during the investigation and trial, especially regarding Chen’s detention.” ~/~

“While Chen himself has called the trial against him and his wife an act of revenge carried out by political opponents for a life devoted to independence from China, some analysts have difficulties discerning an outright vendetta. “The investigation was launched and prosecution of his wife was started while Chen was president,” said Jerome Cohen, a law professor at New York University. “He would have been indicted while president if the law had not barred prosecution of a sitting president.” But Cohen argued that the way the court handled the case was open to criticism, citing a “disturbing” mid-trial switch of a judge. ~/~

“In a letter to President Ma Ying-jeou early this year, nearly 30 international academics warned that “the erosion of the judicial system” could jeopardize Chen’s right to a fair trial. “Taiwan’s judicial system must be not only above suspicion but even above the appearance of suspicion, of partiality and political bias,” the letter said. Legal experts have called for Chen’s release from detention so he can prepare his defense in a more unhindered manner than has been the case so far. “The High Court should give Chen a fair chance to defend himself when he appeals the ruling, but this will be very difficult if he is still in custody,” Lin said. ~/~

Chen Acquitted of Embezzlement, Bribery and Perjury

In June 2010, a Taiwan court acquitted Chen of embezzling from a special diplomatic fund. Associated Press reported: “In the ruling, the Taipei District Court says prosecutors failed to provide evidence that Chen Shui-bian gave $330,000 to son Chen Chih-chung while he was studying in the United States. [Source: Associated Press, June 8, 2010]

In November 2010, a court acquitted of Chen of charges that he took bribes from two bankers. Associated Press reported: “The Taipei District Court said in its ruling Friday there was no evidence showing Chen took 600 million New Taiwan dollars ($20 million) in exchange for promises not to block the bankers’ separate merger initiatives. Executives of Cathay Bank and Yuanta Securities Co. claim the money was political donations. They also were acquitted of bribery charges in the case. Three days later Taiwanese prosecutors said they would appeal the court's decision. Current President Ma Ying-jeou appeared to question the court's decision as well. “The judiciary needs to be independent but it cannot be isolated from society or betray public expectations,” Ma said. [Source: Associated Press, November 5, 8, 2010]

In August 2012, AFP reported: “Taiwan's high court cleared former president Chen Shui-bian of one charge of instigating perjury in the latest legal victory for the jailed ex-leader. Chen was accused of instructing a top aide to give false statements to prosecutors during an investigation into the sprawling corruption allegations against him stemming from his 2000-2008 presidency. However, Chen was found not guilty as some of the aide's statements were proven true while others were either deemed irrelevant or not instigated by Chen, a court statement said. The verdict is the latest victory for the ex-leader, who is serving a prison term of 17 years and six months on two bribery convictions, with more trials pending on other charges. In June, a district court rejected a compensation claim against him in a land purchase deal and he was acquitted of misusing diplomatic funds in a separate case in 2011. [Source: Agence France-Presse, August 17, 2012]

Chen Shui-ban Given Extra Jail Time After His Life Sentence was Cut

In June 2010, Taiwan's High Court rejected former President Chen Shui-bian's appeal of his conviction on corruption charges, but cut his life sentence to 20 years and upheld the conviction of former first lady Wu Shu-chen but reduced her own life sentence to 14 years. A that point Chen has been incarcerated in a suburban Taipei jail for 17 months. Following the decision, Chen appealled to the Supreme Court. The High Court also considered a separate request by Chen to be released. That request was rejected two weeks later when his detention order expired. [Source: Associated Press, June 11, 2010]

In August 2011, Chen Shui-ban was given an additional sentence for money-laundering and forgery. The BBC reported: The extra term of two years and eight months was imposed after a retrial at Taiwan's high court, in which Chen was acquitted of another corruption charge. In this latest case, Chen was initially found guilty of embezzling some $5m (£3m) from a special presidential fund while he was in power. But the Supreme Court ordered a retrial last November, citing insufficient evidence.Now Taiwan's High Court has acquitted Chen of the charge. The court, however, found him guilty of money laundering and forging documents, and handed down the additional two-year sentence. That brings his overall sentence to about 20 years. [Source: BBC, August 26, 2011]

“Chen's wife, former first lady Wu Shu-chen, received a longer sentence of nearly 12 years at the retrial, but she is unlikely to spend any time in prison because of her poor health, says the BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei. Analysts say the ruling could appease Chen's supporters and help President Ma Ying-jeou, who is seeking re-election in the upcoming January presidential race. But it could also help the opposition party which Chen once led, by giving it more leverage to accuse the governing party of playing politics in prosecutions.” [Ibid]

In December 2012, Taiwan’s Supreme Court gave Chen a 10-year term and his wife eight years for graft in connection with the Yuanta-Fuhwa merger. The Taipei Times and AFP reported: “Chen was convicted of accepting NT$200 million (US$6.9 million) in bribes in connection with Yuanta Financial Holding Co’s merger with Fuhwa Financial Holding Co and sentenced to another 10 years, the Supreme Court said in a statement. Chen, 62, is currently serving an 18-and-a-half year term for corruption and money-laundering. By law, an individual can serve only a maximum of 20 years in prison unless a life term is imposed. Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-jen, already sentenced to 19 years and two months on four convictions for charges including corruption and perjury, was sentenced to eight years in jail. [Source: Taipei Times, AFP, December 21, 2012 /*\]

“Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division spokesman Chen Hung-ta said one result of the ruling is that the government will now be able to ask the Swiss government to return the money which Chen’s family deposited in a Swiss bank. The court said the money was paid to Chen as a bribe by Yuanta. The sum has been frozen by Swiss authorities since the scandal broke in 2008. /*\

“Chen’s defense attorney, Shih Yi-lin, said the Supreme Court still favored the argument that “the president played an influential role.” “It is a very controversial stance in the legal field. It is also an expanded interpretation on the legal power and authority of the presidency,” Shih said, adding that he would consider whether to appeal the ruling. Chen Shui-bian’s office issued a statement questioning whether the ruling was the result of “political interference” that aimed to disgrace Chen by rendering a verdict that was unconstitutional. Saying the money came from political donations, Chen and Wu’ son, Chen Chih-chung, accused the judiciary of being pliable when it came to dealing with his father. /*\

Chen Shui-ban Attempts Suicide After Being Transferred to Prison Hospital

In April 2013, Chen Shui-bian was transferred from Taipei Veterans General Hospital to Taichung Prison’s Pei Teh Hospital, where a special medical zone was set up for him to continue serving his 20-year jail term for corruption. According to the justice ministry, AFP reported, “Chen was taken to a hospital for inmates in central Taiwan from a public hospital in Taipei, where he had spent several months being treated for depression and other health problems, it said. Doctors have recommended home care for the 62-year-old, who is diagnosed with severe depression, a nerve disorder and other conditions, according to medical documents released by his office.” [Source: AFP, April 19, 2013]

“The ministry said in a statement that home care is not an option for inmates, while Chen does not qualify for immediate parole on medical grounds as he can receive necessary treatment at the prison hospital. Some of Chen's supporters were angry and accused the government of President Ma Ying-jeou of making a politically-motivated decision to deny him medical parole. "The Ma administration's abrupt move was harmful to Chen's health and his human rights. It also violated professional media judgement," said Lee Chun-yee, a spokesman for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party that Chen once led.” [Ibid]

In June 2013, the Ministry of Justice said Chen tried to hang himself by tying a towel to a bathroom fitting at a prison hospital in Greater Taichung, but was stopped by a prison caretaker Rich Chang and Chris Wang wrote in the Taipei Times, “ Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang said that Chen was distraught that public funds could now be spent legally in hostess bars, while the courts had found his use of them for diplomatic projects to have been a criminal offense. Chen Shui-bian was apparently referring to former independent legislator Yen Ching-piao, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for the misuse of public funds in hostess bars during his term as Taichung County Council speaker, but who may be released from jail once an amendment to the Accounting Act is promulgated. [Source: Rich Chang and Chris Wang, Taipei Times, June 4, 2013]

“The deputy minister said that at 9pm on Sunday, Chen Shui-bian tied a towel to a 90cm high shower fitting in his bathroom and attempted to hang himself. A caretaker stopped him and medical staff then checked his blood pressure, heartbeat and other vital signs. Chen Ming-tang said that Chen Shui-bian’s condition was stable. The deputy minister added that Chen Shui-bian’s medical team asked him why he had tried to commit suicide. According to Chen Ming-tang, Chen Shui-bian said he was upset that his bid to rejoin the Democratic Progressive Party had not gone well, and also because the involvement of elected officials and professors in irregularities related to the use of public funds could be decriminalized following the passage of the public funds amendment, while his use of public funds on diplomatic projects would not be decriminalized. The deputy minister added that the prison hospital sent a psychiatrist from Taichung Veterans General Hospital to visit Chen Shui-bian.

The former president has been diagnosed with severe depression, sleep apnea, non-typical Parkinson’s disease, a speech disorder and mild cerebral atrophy. His office confirmed his suicide attempt in a press release. Citing a prison staffer’s conversation with Chen Shui-bian, the office confirmed that the former president had tried to kill himself because of his anger over the decriminalization of hundreds of university professors’ and local councilors’ irregular use of public funds. Chen Shui-bian’s son, Chen Chih-chung, wrote on his Facebook page that his father was calling for “a uniform standard” to be set for all legal proceedings, rather than different standards for specific individuals. “I cannot accept [the double standard], nor could anyone; let alone someone with serious illnesses,” Chen Chih-chung wrote. “Chen Shui-bian’s health suffers a blow every time he sees that someone else has received preferential treatment,” said Janice Chen, spokesperson for Chen Shui-bian’s private medical team.

Teenager Who Conned Chen Shui-ban Loses Libel Bid

In October 2009, a 17-year-old boy who duped Chen Shui-bian by posing as a fortune-teller lost a libel bid against a newspaper for branding him a liar. AFP reported: “The teenager, identified only by his family name Huang, was arrested in 2008 for alleged forgery after boasting on television about his scam targeting Chen, but was later released by a juvenile court. In May, Huang pressed libel charges against the local Apple Daily for calling him "the teenager who conned Chen" and "(the teenager who) conned numerous people" in one of its columns. "The case concerns the public interest, and prosecutors have ruled that the report was not written with the intention to defame," said a spokesman for prosecutor's office in the Taipei district of Shihlin. [Source: AFP October 6, 2009 ^*^]

“Huang's case caused a media sensation in Taiwan and brought comparisons with Leonardo DiCaprio's character in the 2002 blockbuster "Catch Me If You Can" amid reports that he assumed nine different identities in a series of cons. The teenager reportedly posed as a radio station director, a hotel executive and a British passport holder with two Master's degrees, as well as a fortune-teller. He has apologised and admitted lying about his age and fabricating his academic and work experience "out of vanity". ^*^

“The ex-president has accused Huang of trying to swindle money out of him after arranging a Buddhist ritual for him but denied getting a tarot card reading from the boy. Newspapers had a field day with the story, claiming that Chen, who was battling corruption charges, was in tears after receiving an unfavourable reading. In further echoes from "Catch Me If You Can", based on the life of teenage swindler Frank Abagnale Jr, reports have said Huang never went to high school and is estranged from his parents.” ^*^

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourism Bureau, Republic of China (Taiwan), Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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