Mon, Feb 09, 2015 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Former Taipei councilor suspects MeHAS City graft

Liberty Times (LT): Can you explain to us what this case is about?

Yang Shih-chiu (楊實秋): The Taipei City Government originally expropriated 28,000 ping (92,560 m2) of land in New Taipei City’s Sindian Distirct (新店) that it said would be used to construct an MRT depot. The city government bought the land at market value — NT$170,000 to NT$180,000 (US$5,400 to US$5,700 at current exchange rates) per ping — plus an additional 40 percent.

The plan to build an MRT depot was later revised and the site was instead slated to become the location of a jointly developed residential complex. Meanwhile, Radium Life Tech Co (日勝生公司) bought 148 ping of land from owners previously unwilling to sell to the city government at NT$600,000 per ping as private property. As owners of private property, Radium obtained the rights to develop the land and thus became a partner in the joint development project, in which the city government provided the land and Radium shouldered the costs.

In April 2011, I brought the project to the notice of the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation, saying that under-the-table government and corporate deals were suspected in the project. The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office last year closed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence of giving or receiving bribes.

However, the office that indicted former Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) development branch director Kao Chia-nung (高嘉濃) and former DORTS section head Wang Ming-tsang (王銘藏) allegedly scaled up the constructor’s overheads in an attempt to benefit Radium.

The case is quite absurd. If, going by the office’s logic, Kao and Wang both risked imprisonment to benefit the builders, without either accepting bribes from the builders or being instructed to do so by their superiors; that does not make any logical sense.

Furthermore, a key point in this case is that the government profited off the public — by expropriating land at the market price set when the land was to be used for infrastructure — with private companies profiting from the government by buying land at the site and becoming partners.

The city government’s attempt to profit at the expense of the public has instead benefited big business, with corporations making all the profit and no money going into the city coffers.

LT: The prosecutors have already made up their minds that the entire case was orchestrated by Kao and Wang to benefit Radium. Do you think there are other incidents that still require investigation?

Yang: The prosecutors are currently looking in the direction I pointed them toward in the past — at the discrepancy in the original construction cost estimates. However, from the most recent information in my possession, the distribution of property is another part of the case that might need to be looked into.

According to my information, Radium employees actually chaired and recorded a meeting held to decide the equity ratio of the finished products. This is in complete violation of regulations. This is something the prosecutors’ office has not yet touched on in its investigation. I am certain that if investigated, this particular aspect of the case would reveal illegal activities. Despite the case being officially closed last year, I will be bringing in new evidence and asking for a re-opening of the investigation into the case.

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