Chen denies any wrongdoing, claiming the criminal proceeding are a political plot.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which he resigned from in August, faces local elections next year and the corruption charges could have a negative effect on public opinion.

Family indictments

Chen's wife, son, daughter-in-law and 11 other family members or former aides were also charged by prosecutors in connection to suspected financial crimes, which have been under investigation for the last two years.

"Virtually no one in Taiwan politics is honest, not even [President] Ma Ying-jeou," Cheng Wen-lung, Chen's lawyer, said.

Supporters of the former president have held street protests for the past month, insisting on his innocence.

Chen promised to appear for all court proceedings once a trial begins, the lawyer said. His wife, Wu Shu-chen, has angered judges by missing 17 court appearances due to poor heatlh since charges of corruption were brought against her in November 2006.

As president from 2000-2008, Chen angered Beijing by seeking to declare independence from China.

China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and has said it could take control by force, if necessary, were the island to declare independence.