Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday showed a document from the Ministry of Justice which confirmed the legality of the city government’s involvement in the Mass Rapid Transportation (MRT) Xiaobitan Station Joint Development project, insisting that the city did nohing unconstitutional regarding the project.
Taipei City’s Department of Rapid Transit Systems launched the project, also known as MeHAS City (美河市) in New Taipei City’s Xindian District (新店), with Radium Life Tech Co in 2006. Amid accusations that the department has helped the developer to profit hugely from the project, the Control Yuan accused the city government in November last year of underestimating the value of the land, thus allowing the developer to secure higher profits when selling the apartment complex.
The Taipei District Court last month detained two former officials from the department for their roles in a possible corruption case related to the project.
A story released yesterday in the Chinese-language United Daily News further questioned the legitimacy of the project and accused the city government of violating the Constitution because the Mass Rapid Transit Act (大眾捷運法) does not authorize local governments to launch development projects on land intended for MRT infrastructures.
Showing a document from the ministry dated Friday last week, Hau said the Justice Ministry said that it respected the city government’s authority over the development project.
“The ministry made it clear in the document that the joint development project is under the authority of the city government. There are no violations of the Constitution,” he said.
As to the Control Yuan’s demand that the city government should re-evaluate the price of the land because Radium Life Tech Co secured the project with a bid of only NT$20 billion (US$667.2 million), Department of Rapid Transit Systems Commissioner Tsai Hui-sheng (蔡輝昇) said the department has selected five property appraisal companies to re-evaluate the land and construction costs. The department has also asked the developer to pay a bond of NT$3.5 billion, allowing it to proceed with its transfer of ownership of the land in the meantime.
The developer will be required to pay more if the re-evaluation result finds that the land’s market value is higher than the amount the developer paid, he said.
“If the developer does not agree with the evaluation result, it can file a lawsuit against the result. The city government will ensure that our rights are not violated,” he said.
Of the land that the department obtained from a private owner for the MRT station, only 30 percent was used to build the station, while about 70 percent was given to the developer to build the apartment complex.
The Control Yuan estimated that the project caused the city government a loss of NT$11 billion.