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Ill-gotten Assets Act: REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: Assets mission completed after long haul

LEGAL BATTLES:Numerous attempts have been made to deal with the issue of KMT assets, with court cases, referendums and legislation leading up to Monday’s result

By Yang Chun-hui 楊 淳 卉

Democratic Progressive Party at-large legislative candidates rally near Taipei 101 on Jan. 1, 2008, to protest the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration’s blocking of a law on ill-gotten party assets.

Photo: Lin Cheng-kung, Taipei Times

The passage of the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations (政黨及其附隨組織不當取得財產處理條例) on Monday was the culmination of a 14-year quest by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), pursued by party leaders and rank-and-file supporters through five legislative elections and three presidential administrations.

In 2002, the DPP administration of then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) introduced via the Executive Yuan a draft bill — the act governing the handling of ill-gotten properties by political parties — which was effectively to target the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) assets, which critics said were seized by illegal or extralegal means during the period of single-party rule.

However, the DPP did not have a legislative majority, while the pan-blue camp — which at that time was comprised of the KMT and its coalition partner, the People First Party (PFP) — did have a majority and stalled the bill 75 times via parliamentary maneuvering in the fifth legislature’s Procedure Committee.

In the sixth legislature, the pan-blue camp retained its majority and stalled the bill an additional 26 times in the committee and in 2006, when the Executive Yuan-sponsored bill was for the first time submitted to review at the committee level, KMT members on the committee three times terminated the review process, blocking the bill from reaching the general assembly.

In 2008, the seventh legislature pushed the bill through the committee to the review stage, but by then the DPP administration had been voted out of office, and when then-president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Cabinet was sworn in, Ma withdrew the bill from the legislature, effectively freezing party-assets reform for the eight years of his presidency.

KMT lawmakers had since 2002 blocked bills pertaining to the reform of party assets 306 times.

Although Chen’s path to reform stalled at the legislature, he engaged the issue with other strategies, including administrative investigations, filing litigation over alleged KMT expropriation of national properties and initiating a Control Yuan investigation in 2000.

According to a special report by the Ministry of Finance to the legislature in March, governmental agencies had filed eight lawsuits against the KMT over alleged expropriation of national properties and assets, with five wins and two losses for the government.

One case ended with an out of court settlement.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications from 2003 to 2006 initiated five lawsuits against Broadcasting Corp of China (中廣公司) over a property in New Taipei City’s Banciao District (板橋), with public prosecutors filing the first indictment in November 2004, the report said.

Over nearly a decade of litigation, the ministry won all five suits it filed, with the courts ruling in its favor in August 2014.

Three lawsuits filed by the Ministry of Education and the National Property Administration ended in either losses or settlement.

In 2004, the Ministry of Finance established a task force to regulate party assets, but the group was disbanded by the Ma administration on Jan. 12, 2009.

On April 13 of that year, the Ma administration terminated the Executive Yuan’s protocol regulating the negotiation and handling of political parties and affiliates that had expropriated national assets and properties.

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