Taiwan ex-president's prison term extended

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's former president Chen Shui-bian, jailed for corruption in 2009, has had his prison term extended by 18 months to 20 years due to a further bribery conviction.

Chen, 62, was already serving an 18 1/2-year term for corruption and money-laundering convictions relating to his 2000-2008 presidency - charges he says stem from a vendetta by the current Beijing-friendly government.

The high court ruled Friday that Chen should serve the extra time for taking bribes from businessmen in a high-profile financial merger case. He was convicted of the offences in December.

Chen's wife Wu Shu-chen also saw her jail term extended to 20 years, although she has been spared from serving her sentence due to poor health.

The couple were also ordered to pay a total fine of Tw$450 million (S$19 million), the court said in a statement.

They face further charges in other cases, but legal experts say their sentences are unlikely to be extended again as individuals can only serve a maximum of 20 years in jail unless a life term is imposed.

Chen's supporters have urged the government to grant him parole for medical treatment saying he is suffering from depression and other health problems. He has been undergoing treatment in a Taipei public hospital since September.

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

Chen insists that the charges against him are part of a politically motivated vendetta carried out by Taiwan's current government in retaliation for his eight years in power, when he promoted Taiwan's independence from China.

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