Taiwan's ex-cabinet official jailed for graft, a blow for President Ma

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's former cabinet secretary general was sentenced to seven years and four months in jail on Tuesday after pocketing more than US$2 million (S$2.46 million) in bribes, in a graft case that has rocked the island.

Lin Yi-shih, who was also a vice chairman of the ruling Kuomintang party and a confidant of President Ma Ying-jeou, had claimed the charges against him were part of a political set-up after he was accused of using his influence to solicit bribes.

But the 44-year-old was found guilty of two corruption counts, including one of taking a bribe, after pocketing about NT$60 million (S$2.4 million). The court also fined him NT$15.8 million.

Observers said the case dealt a heavy blow to Mr Ma, who was re-elected for a second term in January 2012 pledging to fight corruption after his predecessor Chen Shui-bian was convicted in several graft cases.

"Lin was convicted and found guilty for two of the four counts, including using his power to take a bribe and property crime of unknown origin," Mr Huang Chun-ming, the spokesman for the Taipei District Court, told reporters.

He was cleared of one count of taking a bribe and another of money laundering. His wife, mother and two uncles were also cleared of money laundering charges.

Lin, who did not show up for the court session, will remain free while he appeals the court's ruling.

He resigned from the cabinet in June last year after a businessman accused him of taking bribes in exchange for several state contracts when he was a lawmaker in 2010.

The businessman also made audio recordings of Lin making demands for bribes which were obtained by local media.

Taiwan has been rocked by a string of high-profile corruption cases involving top officials, prompting the Ma government to set up a special anti-corruption body in 2011.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.