February 10, 2009 / 5:27 PM / in 9 years

Ex-first lady beams, waves, pleads guilty

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan former first lady Wu Shu-jen pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with a massive graft case embroiling her family after she showed up in court after 17 non-appearances in two years.

Wu, who beamed and waved as she entered the Taipei District Court in a wheelchair, is charged with embezzlement and receipt forgery involving public funds. Prosecutors added a money-laundering charge in December.

She pleaded guilty to forgery and of accepting $2.2 million related to a suspected shady land use deal, but denied other graft charges.

“I will reflect and re-evaluate myself,” Wu told reporters after the hearing as she apologized for the “social costs” of her case. “I will cooperate with the investigation.”

The case involving Wu, her husband former president Chen Shui-bian, their family and his aides has hurt the image of the Democratic Progressive Party, which backed Chen in office from 2000 to 2008 and faces tense local elections later this year.

Wu Shu-jen, the wife of former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian, speaks to the media after a pre-trial session on her money laundering case, at the Taiwan Taipei District Court, February 10, 2009. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Chen and Wu left the party in August.

At her only other appearance so far, to enter a not-guilty plea in December 2006, Wu apparently fainted in a courthouse restroom. Paralyzed from the waist down from an accident in 1985, she sought medical leave thereafter, enraging the judges.

Wu Shu-jen, the wife of former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian, arrives for a pre-trial session on her money laundering case, at the Taiwan Taipei District Court, February 10, 2009. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

Chen is in jail awaiting trial on charges he and his family embezzled T$104 million (3 million) from a special fund, took bribes of about $9 million related to a land procurement deal and accepted another $2.73 million in kickbacks to help a contractor.

Prosecutors are going easier on Wu.

“We don’t have a specific sentence, just that she be prosecuted under law,” said prosecutor’s spokesman Chen Yun-nan.

Wu’s lawyers would not comment on Tuesday’s court appearance, which was a preparatory hearing ahead of an expected full trial.

Reporting by Ralph Jennings

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