Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui was indicted on Thursday on charges of money laundering and embezzling money from a secret diplomatic fund. Lee and a top aide, Liu Tai-ying, were charged with embezzling $7.79 million [AP report] from a National Security Bureau [official website, in Chinese] fund to set up a think tank, Taiwan Research Institute [official website]. Prosecutors said Lee promised $10.5 million to the government of South Africa in 1994, wired the money to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) [official website], but reimbursed a fraction of the donation to the NSB. Lee, allegedly pocketing the balance, intended to amass funds and research for a private venture after leaving the presidency. Lee stepped down from the presidency after 12 years in 2000 and has denied taking money from the NSB.
Lee is the second former Taiwanese high-ranking official accused of embezzlement. Former president Chen Shui-bian [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and his wife were accused of taking more than $20 million in bribes from banks and financial institutions that sought to protect themselves during the implementation of Chen's financial reform program. The pair were initially sentenced to life in prison in September 2009 after being convicted of embezzlement, receiving bribes, forgery and money laundering, but the sentences were ultimately reduced to 11 years [JURIST reports]. Chen was again indicted [JURIST report] shortly after the September sentence on additional corruption charges relating to funds he received while traveling abroad as president. Chen was initially detained in November 2008 and formally indicted [JURIST report] the following month. He unsuccessfully appealed [JURIST report] his pretrial detention in January 2009. Chen served as president of Taiwan from 2000-2008.