Taiwan's ex-leader faces fresh money laundering charge

Former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian (centre) waves to supporters as he is escorted by his son Chen Chih-chung (left) after being freed from prison in Taichung on Jan 5, 2015. Taiwanese prosecutors on Friday indicted convicted former president
Former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian (centre) waves to supporters as he is escorted by his son Chen Chih-chung (left) after being freed from prison in Taichung on Jan 5, 2015. Taiwanese prosecutors on Friday indicted convicted former president Chen Shui-bian on an additional charge of money laundering, less than three weeks after he was freed from jail on a medical parole. -- PHOTO: AFP 

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwanese prosecutors on Friday indicted convicted former president Chen Shui-bian on an additional charge of money laundering, less than three weeks after he was freed from jail on a medical parole.

Chen, who had been serving a 20-year jail term on multiple graft and money laundering convictions relating to his time in office, was released on medical parole early January after being diagnosed with severe depression, suspected Parkinson's disease and other conditions.

Chen was Friday charged with laundering Tw$10 million (S$432,000)through his brother-in-law. The money was a bribe offered by a businesswoman to help her secure a position when he was president, the Taipei district prosecutor's office said.

There are still a number of outstanding cases against Chen stemming from his 2000-2008 presidency that could lead to more years in prison if he were to be convicted, but his medical condition may affect his ability to stand trial.

The 64-year-old was initially given one month's parole, with his freedom depending on his state of health. He will be subject to monthly medical check-ups.

Chen and his family have been accused of laundering millions of dollars by sending political donations and secret diplomatic funds abroad, as well as taking kickbacks on government contracts and bribes from businesspeople.

Chen was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2009 but the term was reduced to 20 years after appeals.

Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen, who is paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair, has been spared from serving a 20-year sentence handed down for her role in the corruption offences due to poor health.

Chen insists that the charges against him are part of a politically motivated vendetta by the current Beijing-friendly Kuomintang government, in retaliation for his eight years in power when he promoted the idea of Taiwan declaring independence from China.