Sat, Jan 07, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Investigators extend probe into fraudulent land bids

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government said yesterday that investigators will extend their probe into claims of fraud in the bidding process for state-owned properties last year. If fraudulent practices are found, the parcels of land in question will be recovered, officials said.

This follows in the wake of the scandal that erupted on Thursday when a postal worker admitted to the police that he colluded with several land brokers over the past year to steal tenders and tamper with the bidding prices for certain property developers.

On Thursday, the state-run Chunghwa Post Co (中華郵政) said it had discovered that a number of workers had been involved in intercepting land tender bids mailed to a special post office box kept by the National Property Bureau. Post office worker Lin Chin-fu (林欽福), and retired colleague Lin Wen-liang (林文良) are suspected of illegally removing the tender bids from post office premises.

According to investigators, land brokers Chiang Ta-te (江達德) and Chang Hsiang-tsun (張祥村) are believed to have opened the bids and ascertained the amounts bid by competing construction companies, allowing a certain company to alter its bid accordingly and win the contract. The four were remanded in custody under the Statute for the Punishment of Corruption (貪污治罪條例).

Su Wei-chen (蘇維成), director of the northern region office at the National Property Bureau under the Ministry of Finance, said yesterday that the bureau has devised several measures to prevent companies developing unlawful construction projects.

He said that the bureau would refuse payment from companies which are found to have obtained real estate illegally. If the company has already paid for the land, but the property title has not yet been transferred, the bureau will follow the legal route by prohibiting the transfer.

If the land has been transferred but not yet sold to a third party, the bureau will apply to have the land sealed up. If the property has been transferred and sold to an innocent third party, the bureau will apply for compensation from the property developers, he said.

Su said that he could not confirm a report by a local Chinese-language newspaper which hinted that a certain construction company might have been involved, because police are still investigating the case.

According to the bureau's statistics, 230 parcels of state-owned land in Taipei were auctioned off last year, with the highest bidding price surpassing the runner-up by more than NT$100 million (US$3.1 million) in four transactions.

Su said that the 75 investors who have submitted tenders for the 21 bidding cases scheduled for Thursday could take back their deposits on Monday morning.

Chunghwa Post also promised to step up security measures, including setting up monitors on the safes in which tenders are kept, in a bid to improve its tarnished image, Su said.

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