Taiwan judges detained in corruption probe

TAIPEI, Wednesday 14 July 2010 (AFP) - Three Taiwanese judges and a prosecutor have been taken into custody accused of taking bribes, a court said Wednesday, in the latest high-profile graft scandal to hit the island.

They were held on suspicion of accepting at least five million Taiwan dollars (155,000 US dollars) from former lawmaker Ho Chih-hui in exchange for a not guilty verdict in a land acquisition case, said the Taipei district court.

Taiwan's top judiciary, the Judicial Yuan, immediately announced that the judges were suspended pending further investigation.

Ho, who represented the Kuomintang party while in the legislature, fled his home on Tuesday when he saw prosecutors approaching and he has been missing since then, according to the court.

He was sentenced to 19 years in prison on corruption by the Taipei district court in 2004 but the High Court cleared him in May.

The detentions came after prosecutors raided 34 locations on Tuesday following a two-year investigation, launching a rare search of the offices of the High Court.

Taiwan has been hit by a string of corruption scandals in recent years, with the most high-profile case implicating former president Chen Shui-bian and his family.

The High Court last month reduced Chen's sentence to 20 years from life imprisonment on multiple convictions of corruption while he was president.

Chen has blasted his trial as a vendetta carried out by the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang administration in retaliation for his pro-independence stance during his 2000-2008 term.

Taiwan ranked as the 37th least corrupt society in the world in 2009, according to Berlin-based Transparency International, which issues an annual corruption perception index. In 2008 its ranking was number 39.

MySinchew 2010.07.14