Mon, Apr 01, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Taisugar trial result misleading

By Hong Chi-chang 洪奇昌

Former Taiwan Sugar Corp (Taisugar) chairman Wu Nai-jen (吳乃仁) and I have been convicted in connection with Taisugar’s sale of a plot of agricultural land and our sentences have been finalized.

It necessary to point out that the court’s findings in the case run counter to what actually happened. During the trial, our evidence and statements were completely ignored. According to the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法), we still have recourse to a retrial or to an extraordinary appeal. Meanwhile, this is our final review of the crumbling judicial neutrality.

The premise for the verdict in the first and second trial was that “the accused were well aware of the fact that Taisugar always only rented, never sold, its land.” However, the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 2001 abolished the regulations governing the provision of land for rent and the determination of superficies rights for state owned enterprises under the ministry, and authorized each enterprise to legally sell any land that they did not use, or had no commercial need to hold on to.

In May 2000, before Wu was appointed chairman of Taisugar, the company updated its operating guidelines governing land sale and exchanges and was already stating the revenue and losses resulting from land sales in each annual budget.

There simply was no so-called “principle” according to which Taisugar “always only rented, never sold, its land.”

In April 2002, the Cabinet established a National Asset Management Committee and announced that it would dispose of public land as one way to solve the government’s financial crisis. Perhaps due to administrative pressures, prosecutors deliberately distorted and misused this, and even if the courts, which should be independent, were not aware of this, the budget records were clear and the government policies of the time were unambiguous. Still, this was not taken into consideration and the court made an arbitrary decision.

The main charge against us is breach of trust. According to Article 342 of the Criminal Code, this requires that one “acts contrary to [one’s] duties and thereby causes loss to the property or other interest of the principal.”

The verdict states that Wu sold land by way of public tender at a price below market value and that this caused losses to Taisugar. The issue here is that, since there was a public tender, the highest bidder of course won the bid and that highest price is what constitutes the market price.

The courts of first and second instance seem to have made the subjective judgment that a market price exists that is greater than the highest bid offered in the public tender.

During the trial, we submitted evidence that at the time of this tender, neighboring land was sold at a price lower than Taisugar’s tender price and we therefore requested that specialized agencies conduct an appraisal of the situation. If no losses had arisen, how could “breach of trust” have occurred? However, the courts ignored our request.

As to the claim that Taisugar “always only rented, and never sold, its land,” the judge spent no time on this issue and instead directly gave a verdict based on the prosecutor’s mistaken and distorted evidence. In terms of the appraisal, that request was also ignored and was not properly investigated.

In other words, this was a matter of not investigating evidence that should have been investigated at the trial according to the Code of Criminal Procedure, and this neglect meets the intent of the Council of Grand Justices’ Constitutional Interpretation No. 238 — which addresses the issue of procedural violations of the law in trial proceedings — as well as the intent of the findings at the fourth meeting of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court in 2008, which deals with extraordinary appeals.

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