Taiwan's ex-leader Ma wins libel case

Taiwan's ex-leader Ma wins libel case
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI - Taiwan's ex-president Ma Ying-jeou, who has faced a string of lawsuits since stepping down last year, scored a legal victory Tuesday in a defamation case against a commentator who claimed he had taken illicit donations.

Ma filed the libel lawsuit in 2014 against radio show host Clara Chou for alleging that he accepted Tw$200 million (S$9 million) from scandal-hit food giant Ting Hsin International Group in exchange for favours.

The high court overturned a previous ruling and convicted Chou of defaming the former president as she "failed to thoroughly verify" the allegations before reporting them.

Ma firmly rejected Chou's accusations, saying his government fully investigated the company's alleged involvement in a number of food safety scandals and indicted dozens of people.

The verdict, which requires Chou to either pay a fine of Tw$50,000 or sever a 50-day prison sentence, is Ma's second legal victory after a district court last month found him not guilty in a political leaks case.

But the ex-leader faces a new trial starting Friday after state prosecutors brought fresh leaks charges against him last month.

Ma has maintained his innocence and vowed to "fight to the end for justice".

Ma had immunity from prosecution while in office. But since he stepped down in May last year after serving two terms, the 66-year-old has been hit with a raft of corruption and other allegations.

Ma's Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party held power from 2008 to 2016, before it was trounced by Tsai Ing-wen and her opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

Ma is the third ex-president in Taiwan to be indicted on criminal charges.

His predecessor Chen Shui-bian was serving a 20-year sentence for corruption until he was freed on medical parole in 2015.

Lee Teng-hui was charged with embezzling state funds during his 1988-2000 presidency, but was acquitted.

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