Taiwan president's confidante indicted for graft

TAIPEI - A Taiwanese politician known for her close ties with the president was indicted on Thursday on corruption charges, a prosecutor said.

Lai Su-ju, a member of the Taipei City Council, was charged with soliciting a Tw$10 million (S$416,000) bribe, of which she already received Tw$1 million, to help facilitate a massive construction project in the capital, the prosecutor said.

"Lai denied her crimes despite concrete evidence and refused to explain the sources of her ill-gotten assets. We demand the court impose a heavy sentence on her as she has shown no remorse," said prosecutor Huang Mou-hsin.

Three businessmen were also charged with bribing Lai, while no other city council members were found to have been involved in the case, Huang said.

Lai, who has been detained since March, has admitted accepting Tw$1 million but claimed it was a political donation rather than a bribe, authorities said.

The 49-year-old was a rising star in the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party chaired by President Ma Ying-jeou and formerly served as its spokeswoman. She was also the director of Ma's office in the KMT.

As a lawyer, she had represented Ma and other top politicians in several high-profile court cases.

She became the second KMT politician with close links to the president to be implicated in corruption scandals, after former party vice chairman and top cabinet official Lin Yi-shih was indicted on graft charges last year.

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