Chen son-in-law's appeal rejected
Lawrence Chung in Taipei
Jail term lengthened for member of Taiwan's ruling family
Taiwan's High Court has rejected an appeal by President Chen Shui-bian's son-in-law and increased his jail sentence to seven years for insider trading in a verdict that has shaken Mr Chen's administration.
Chao Chien-ming, a physician married to Mr Chen's daughter Chen Hsin-yu, was given one more year on the sentence handed down last December by the District Court, officials said yesterday.
'Because the amount of illicit profits they gained exceeded NT$100 million [HK$23.84 million], the court decided to mete out a heavier sentence,' said High Court spokesman Wen Yao-yuan.
Chao's lawyers said they would appeal to the Supreme Court.
Chao, the first member of the presidential family to be sentenced, was convicted, along with his father and two other businessmen, of insider trading.
The High Court also upheld the District Court's NT$30 million fine each against Chao and his father, whose sentence was increased by 14 months to 91/2 years.
Mr Wen said Chao and the other defendants bought shares in financially troubled property developer Taiwan Development Corporation 'prior to the disclosure of crucial information which would affect stock prices'.
The sentence of businessman Yu Shi-yi was increased from four years and three months to seven years and two months.
The sentence of Su Teh-chien, was increased from four years and three months to 71/2 years. None of the four appeared in court.
The sentence against Chao came as a surprise to the first family. The president's daughter said she was worried, but 'I have to respect the court's decision'.
Legislators in the ruling, pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the verdict, meted out ahead of legislative elections in January and the presidential poll in March, would damage voters' perceptions of the party.
The conviction seriously dented the image of President Chen, whose family and government have been troubled by various scandals.
Mr Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, is being tried on charges of embezzling NT$14 million in secret diplomatic state funds.
Prosecutors have said they had evidence to charge Mr Chen with the same crime, but are delaying because of his presidential immunity while in office.
Four of Mr Chen's key aides have also been charged with corruption.
Because of the string of scandals, Mr Chen has had to fight against recall motions initiated by the opposition, demanding his resignation.
The president has apologised for the political turmoil caused by his son-in-law and has vowed to step down if his wife is convicted of corruption.