Mon, Jun 04, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Party assets committee learns from Germany

Back from a research trip to Berlin, Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee Chairman Lin Feng-jeng spoke about applying Germany’s experience with transitional justice to Taiwan in an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) staff reporter Chen Yu-fu

Liberty Times: What elements of Germany’s post-unification experience with the handling of illicit assets held by the [Socialist Unity Party (SED), the ruling political party of the German Democratic Republic, also known as East Germany] do you think are relevant to the committee?

Lin Feng-jeng (林峯正): The German Federal Republic’s repossession of assets illicitly obtained by the SED has two components. First, there was a committee tasked with investigating party assets, which operated from 1990 to 2006. Second, there was the Trust Agency. As soon as inquiries began, the party’s assets were transferred to the agency and frozen.

The committee and the agency together employed a staff of 120. The Trust Agency still exists today and has three employees, who are tasked with processing the remaining party assets and lawsuits.

Since the creation of the assets committee in Taiwan, the subject of its investigations, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has repeatedly said that it is unconstitutional. I found that in Germany, the SED also started many lawsuits.

However, the German committee won all of the constitutional cases started against it. Legal scholars believed that investigating party assets was beneficial to the public and there was strong societal consensus in favor of doing so. Very few academics disagreed.

The German method of investigating party assets is broadly similar to Taiwan’s. For the most part, it was carried out by looking into real-estate ownership and parsing archived documents.

The SED controlled more than 400 state-owned enterprises, the majority of which were used by party elites for money-laundering. These were not profitable or productive enterprises and they had few employees.

After the Trust Agency froze their assets, the enterprises had to apply for the agency’s permission for any expenses exceeding 5 German marks. The Taiwanese committee’s methods are consistent with German practice.

The SED-controlled enterprises were completely liquidated and the proceeds went to state coffers. Different types of party assets were disposed of by different means. A lot of that experience is valuable for Taiwan.

Litigation regarding the KMT-controlled Central Investment Co (中央投資公司) and Hsinyutai Co (欣裕台) is ongoing. We need to determine whether it is better to nationalize the companies’ stock or sell off the low performers.

LT: How does the German and Taiwanese committees’ legal authority differ?

Lin: The German committee was more empowered than the Taiwanese counterpart. It was allowed to transfer all party assets to the Trust Agency and nationalize their ownership. Any asset without a known legal provenance independent from the SED was nationalized. The burden of proof was on the SED to show that each asset was obtained legally.

Taiwan’s assets committee is authorized only to freeze assets, not repossess them, like the German committee. In addition, the German committee was empowered to search and impound to a considerable extent. These powers led to challenges at the German Federal Constitutional Court, but the committee prevailed in each and every instance.

Our committee does not have the power to search or to impound; we only have the authority to demand information and levy fines when met with non-compliance. We had no resort after the destruction of documents by the National Women’s League (NWL) other than filing a criminal complaint with the courts.

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