Taipei: Taiwan`s ex-leader Chen Shui-bian scored a rare legal victory today as a court cleared him of defamation over claims that military personnel enriched themselves in a French frigate deal.
Chen, who left office last year, was sued by five retired officials for alleging in a 2005 television interview that they had taken 20 million US dollars in kickbacks in connection with the controversial deal.
A district court last year ruled in favour of Chen while the High Court today rejected an appeal by a plaintiff in a final ruling, a court spokesman said.
Two officials from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party were also cleared of the same charges.
However, Chen`s legal woes are far from over as he is appealing against a life sentence on corruption convictions linked to activities during his eight years in office.
The defamation case stems from a 1991 deal struck by Taiwan to buy six French-made Lafayette-class frigates built for 2.8 billion US dollars, a deal that strained French ties
with China at the time.
Allegations of kickbacks emerged after the body of a Taiwanese naval captain, who ran the acquisitions office, was found floating in the sea in 1993.
A French judicial probe opened in 2001 to investigate claims that much of the money paid by Taiwan went towards commissions to middlemen, politicians and military officers in Taiwan, China and France.