Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Police chief, city officials probed in logging case

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je comments on illegal logging in the mountains of Taipei’s Neihu District, in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

Following controversy over illegal logging, the Taipei City Government said last night that Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) would wait for the final results of an investigation before deciding how to deal with implicated officials.

The city government made the remarks at a press release after earlier in the day Ko said he would seek to have Neihu District’s (內湖) police chief removed, amid a spiraling corruption scandal over wood trafficking.

“My comment on the Neihu District Office incident is two words: complete lawlessness,” Ko said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that something like this could happen.”

After Taipei City Councilor Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) of the Democratic Progressive Party said that several illegally logged cypress logs had been discovered within Neihu’s environmental protection zone, the scandal has spiraled amid new revelations that an illegal road along which the logs were allegedly transported was constructed using city funds.

District police also allowed the logs to be shipped off the site soon after they were discovered, accepting claims that the logs were naturally fallen “floating wood (漂流木)” that had been legally collected in Taitung County.

The claims drew ridicule from Ko, who said that calling the logs “floating wood” was like “calling a deer a horse.”

The Forestry Bureau has been quoted in local media as saying that under the Forestry Act (森林法) “floating wood” refers to twigs or other small pieces of wood that do not have significant value.

Local media reports have estimated that the cypress logs — which are a prized timber for temple construction — would be worth more than NT$10 million (US$317,000).

Chang Tie-chu (張鐵柱), head of the Taitung Forest District Office — the claimed origin of the logs — was quoted in local press as saying that the logs were clearly “floating wood” based on photographic evidence that show a bruised epidermis and raised bark.

Neihu District Police Chief Chang Mang-lin (張夢麟) has already received a double censure for carelessness and failure to supervise.

Ko also said he was dissatisfied with the light punishment initially meted out to implicated city officials and that everyone in the line of command would be relieved of their responsibilities, including office head Lin Shih-chung (林世崇).

Five officials face charges related to the illegally constructed road used to transport the logs.

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