Taipei: Taiwan`s supreme court sentenced ex-president Chen Shui-bian, an anti-China firebrand whose rhetoric enraged Beijing and irked Washington, and his wife to 19 years in prison for bribery, a court official said on Friday.
The decision that cannot be appealed ends two in a web of cases against the former first family, meaning the sentence could grow as the supreme court reviews other charges. A high court gave both Chen and his wife 20 years in June.
Chen`s fate may impact tense local elections on November 27 as he was the anti-China opposition party`s only president in Taiwan history and was seen as a party standard bearer until he resigned over the charges against him.
This month`s elections are being watched as a bellwether for the 2012 presidential race.
Chen, who has been in jail for two years pending trial and would become the first Taiwan ex-president to do prison time, rejects the charges and calls them politically motivated.
He is talking to his lawyer about any possible last-ditch moves, a spokesman for his foundation said.
In office from 2000 to 2008, he advocated Taiwan`s formal independence from China, which claims sovereignty over the island and seeks to reunify after six decades of separate rule. His stance upset Beijing and Taiwan`s staunchest ally the United States as it sought to build relations with China.
Today`s ruling Nationalist Party is more conciliatory toward China and has brokered a series of trade deals.
Late Thursday`s court decision covers bribery cases related to a land development project and a political appointment.
Chen and former first lady Wu Shu-jen also face charges of money laundering and misuse of state funds. The cases involve a total USD 20 million that prosecutors say was illegally taken while Chen was in office.