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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 12:01 GMT
Taiwan opposition leader resigns
Former opposition leader Ma Ying-jeou (file image)
Ma could still run as an independent presidential candidate
The leader of Taiwan's main opposition party has stepped down following an indictment on charges of corruption.

Ma Ying-jeou resigned from his position as head of the Kuomintang party shortly after the charges were announced.

However, he immediately vowed to clear his name and said he would run in the 2008 presidential election.

Mr Ma is accused of forgery and of having embezzled more than 11m Taiwanese dollars (170,000; $333,000) during his time as Taipei mayor.

'Contradictions'

"Ma Ying-jeou is suspected of misappropriating ... special funds, which do not require documentation for reimbursement," the high court prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The investigation into his finances began in mid-November after allegations that he had shifted money from a special fund into a personal account during his time as mayor, from 1998 to 2006.

A spokesman added that Mr Ma's explanations for the movement of funds had been contradictory.

If convicted, he would face at least seven years in prison. However, prosecutors have already asked for leniency because of his co-operation with the investigation.

Stepping down as party leader, Mr Ma, a former minister of justice with a squeaky-clean image, immediately protested his innocence.

"I respect the law, but there is no way I can accept the accusation of embezzling special government funds," he said.

"[I] solemnly declare I'll turn my anger into motivation... and without reservation I will run in the 2008 presidential election."

The scandal comes as Taiwan's current President, Chen Shui-bian, is embroiled in legal action over a number of financial scandals involving former aides and family members.




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