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July 28, 2017

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Lee takes leave of absence from corruption trial

Former President Lee Teng-hui took a leave of absence from a corruption trial against him yesterday, citing health reasons.

The 89-year-old, who has a history of heart conditions, felt chest pains after getting up early in the morning, and his doctor suggested that he take more rest, his aide, Wang Yen-chun said.

The ex-president was disappointed that he could not attend the trial at the Taipei District Court, and health permitting he will show up in the future, Wang added.

Lee had planned to attend the session and stayed up late Thursday night to prepare his testimony, the aide said.

Lee was indicted in June 2011 on charges of embezzling some US$7.79 million in national security funds during his term as president from 1988 to 2000. Lee has denied the charges.

A co-defendant, Liu Tai-ying, however, attended the hearing, which lasted only less than an hour.

Liu, who used to have full control of the Kuomintang's treasury and business empire when Lee headed both the country and ruling party, declined to talk about the hearing.

Exiting the courthouse, Liu told the press that he had no right to talk about a case involving "classified information."

The case originated from a sum of US$10.5 million in donations that Lee, as head of state, promised to give to South Africa during a visit there in 1994.

According to the indictment, the allocation of the donations then involved shifting a sum from the National Security Bureau's account to the Foreign Ministry.

When the ministry later returned the money, US$7.79 million of it went to Liu for him to buy property to establish a think tank, rather than return it to the security bureau.

During the process, Liu pocketed NT$440,000, according to the prosecution.

In June 2011, the prosecutorial Special Investigation Division (SID) summoned Lee for questioning over the case.

At the time, Lee reportedly told prosecutors that he did not remember the details of the case, and that he was not close to Liu.

The Taipei District Court held its first hearing of the case in October 2011, but Lee also took a leave of absence then.

His attorney Ku Li-hsiung at the time said the former president was very angry that he still had to answer such charges at such an old age.

Ku has also complained about having trouble accessing the classified documents.

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