Former Ma Ying-jeou aide Lin Yi-shih jailed for extortion
Public outcry as district court imposes 'light' seven-year sentence on Lin Yi-shih, throws out graft charges and acquits relatives of all charges
A former top aide of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou was sentenced yesterday to seven years and four months in jail for using his position as a legislator to make illicit gains, and for failing to explain the sources of his wealth.
However, the Taipei district court's ruling against Lin Yi-shih, the former cabinet secretary general, prompted a public outcry by those who viewed it as a relatively light sentence in a high-profile case that cast a pall over the reputation of Ma's government.
Lin, 44, had been charged in connection with demanding NT$63 million (HK$16.55 million) in bribes from a businessman who wanted to secure a slag-treatment contract from the Taiwan-listed China Steel Corp in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, in 2010 during Lin's stint as a legislator. Lin was arrested in July and charged with corruption. He was released on NT$50 million bail in October. In March, prosecutors sought a life sentence.
However, the district court found that the graft charges were unsubstantiated, given that Lin did not hold the necessary power as a legislator to make China Steel award the contract.
"What was presented as evidence failed to prove that the defendant actually committed the crime of corruption," said Huang Chun-ming, a spokesman for Taipei District Court, in a brief news conference after the trial.
Huang said Lin merely made the businessman believe he had the power to help him win the contract, resulting in the businessman giving him the money, which Lin claimed was merely a political contribution.
Still, the court ruled that Lin was guilty of extorting money, for which he was given five years and six months in jail. Also, because Lin failed to explain why his savings exceeded that of his income, he was sentenced to two more years for violating the unexplained-wealth law. The combined sentence was seven years and four months, as sentences are sometimes reduced slightly when combined. Lin was fined NT$15.8 million.
Lin's wife, mother and two uncles, originally charged with money laundering and helping Lin hide assets, were acquitted.
Opposition lawmakers and internet users yesterday heaped scorn on the judicial authorities for "bowing to Ma's pressure and for abuse of justice". "The ruling was obviously aimed at protecting Ma's key aides and at helping to clear the image of corruption in the Ma government," said Chao Tien-lin, a legislator with the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.