The Shilin District Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday summoned Taitung-based wood dealer Su Chung-shan (蘇中山), his younger brother Su Chung-fu (蘇中福) and Xingshan Temple (興善宮) chairman Wang Chao-chin (王朝卿) amid controversies over the legitimacy of the trio’s acquisition and possession of a consignment of valuable lumber.
Prosecutors said the trio were summoned to clarify when the wood was sourced and donated, and whether the Su siblings have any personal relationship with Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖) office head Lin Shih-chung (林世崇), who has been detained for allegedly taking a bribe to build a farm road reportedly used to transport the lumber.
While Su Chung-fu did not show up in court, Su Chung-shan denied allegations that he conducted illegal logging, insisting that the logs were driftwood collected in compliance with the Forestry Act (森林法).
The consignment, reportedly donated by the brothers to the temple in New Taipei City’s Sijhih District (汐止) in 2012, consists of 20 logs weighing more than 10 tonnes, including two Taiwan yellow cedar and nine red cypress logs, each measuring up to 60cm in diameter.
The lumber was discovered in a protected zone in Neihu earlier this month, and was later moved to a factory in Miaoli’s Sanyi Township (三義) where it was seized by the police.
According to data published by the Forestry Bureau, top quality Taiwan yellow cedar and red cypress logs sell for NT$133,420 and NT$100,825 respectively.
Su Chung-fu initially told media outlets that he obtained the wood — which he said washed ashore after Typhoon Morakot — in 2009, but later said the wood was harvested between 2012 and 2013.
Responding to criticism over the inconsistencies in his accounts, Su Chung-fu said on a talk show on Thursday that his establishment has been continuously harvesting wood since Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan in 2009, operating on permits issued by the Taitung Forest District Office.
He also blamed the Taitung office for failing to label the driftwood according to its financial value, which he said has given rise to the controversy.
The act stipulates that local governments should clear away all wood washed ashore after a natural disaster within one month after authorities cancel a disaster warning, and that members of the public can collect wood that does not have economic value after this period by obtaining permits from local river and forest management agencies.
Yang Hung-chih (楊宏志), deputy director-general of the Forestry Bureau, yesterday said that, although the red cypress and Taiwan yellow cedar logs in dispute are valuable, whether the Su brothers have broken the law would depend on the results of an investigation regarding when they harvested the wood.
Regarding Su Chung-fu’s allegation of negligence by the Taitung office in labeling the wood, Yang said that it is yet unclear whether the trio actually sourced the wood from Taitung and when it was sourced, saying that it is still premature to be laying blame.
He also denied Kao’s allegation that the wood had been replaced with cheap lumber before arriving in Sanyi, saying that documentation by bureau staffers proved that it was the same batch found in Neihu.
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