Sat, Mar 28, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Forestry Bureau tied to bribes for hotel suite

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Former Council of Agriculture minister Lee King-lung (李金龍) yesterday accused the Forestry Bureau of accepting bribes in exchange for helping businesses that have close ties with the bureau book the presidential suite at the renovated and upgraded Alishan House (阿里山賓館) in the Alishan Forest Recreational Area in Chiayi County.

Lee made the accusation during a telephone interview with China Television Co in which he said that booking the suite requires “money or connections or some other means.”

Projects and recreational facilities managed by the bureau bring it handsome revenues, with ticket sales totaling NT$580 million (US$18.19 million) and the premium it receives from build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects amounting to NT$58 million, he was quoted as saying.

Beyond that, the bidding process for BOT projects often involves billions of New Taiwan dollars in benefits exchange between stakeholders, he said.

The Forestry Bureau took over the original hotel in 1945. It signed a 32-year contract in 2003 with Chao-Li Hotel Management Advisory Co to renovate the original hotel and build and operate a new addition.

According to the hotel’s Web site, the presidential suite measures 454.5m2 and boasts a sweeping view of Alishan (阿里山). It costs NT$300,000 a night.

It is often difficult to book the suite, the news report said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said there may have been exchanges of benefits between bureau officials and landscape engineering companies.

He said the bureau has authority over a wide range of establishments, including parks and the construction of hotels in state-owned forests, and rumors of collusion between the public and private sectors are rife.

It is widely rumored that profits can be made by both project contractors and bureau officials by undertaking landscape engineering in forest parks, Chen said.

“Some bureau officials have monthly salaries of between NT$50,000 and NT$60,000, yet many of them have been seen wearing luxury watches and driving expensive cars,” he said.

The bureau said that the presidential suite has been used only 11 times since the hotel was renovated and dismissed the rumor about difficulties booking it.

People can call the hotel directly if they want to reserve a room and do not need to go through the bureau, it said.

It said that all projects involving private firms were carried out in a lawful manner and according to contracts and that the public is welcome to file any reports of perceived illegalities to the authorities.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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