Taiwan judge indicted in graft scandal

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan prosecutors on Monday indicted a judge on charges of graft and sought to confiscate over US$1.5 million (S$1.89 million) dollars worth of alleged illicit assets owned by him, in the latest scandal to hit the island's judiciary.

Hu Chin-pin, a senior judge at the central Taichung High Court, was charged with accepting bribes, according to a statement by the special prosecutors office at the conclusion of a three-year investigation.

Five other people were also charged on bribery, money laundering and fraud allegations, the office said. Among them was Hu's girlfriend surnamed Huang, according to the statement.

The prosecutors found that Hu had seen his unidentified source assets surge by Tw$46.47 million (S$1.96 million) since 2010, largely stashed in the bank accounts of his family members and for credit card expenses, as well as to buy a luxury sedan.

The amount of the unidentified income was "the largest ever found among judicial officials", the statement said.

"What Hu did has marred the image of government officials and spoiled judicial morals. Even worse, he has shown no remorse since the outbreak of the scandal...We request the courts to levy the heaviest possible punishment on him," it said.

While probing the scandal, the prosecutors concluded that Hu must have taken more bribes during his life-long judicial career to support his three families that include wife, two girlfriends and six children, according to the statement.

"Given his income, he could not have supported the huge expenses of the three families," prosecutor Lin Feng-wen told reporters.

"But we don't have sufficient evidence to confiscate the rest of his huge assets with unidentified source."

Prosecutors said Hu's sprawling assets, ranging from apartments in Taipei to gold, stocks and bonds, are worth at least Tw$300 million.

Under Taiwanese law, corruption charges carry the maximum sentence of life in prison.

Taiwan has been rocked by a string of high-profile corruption cases involving top officials in recent years, including ex-president Chen Shui-bian who is currently serving a 20-year jail term on multiple graft convictions.

The government in 2010 set up a new watchdog to fight corruption in the wake of a bribery scandal implicating three senior judges and a prosecutor that saw the then judicial chief quit amid a public outcry.

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