Fri, Oct 05, 2018 - Page 3 News List

NWL rejects financial estimates at public hearing

OVERBLOWN:The league said it only received 37% of the Military Benefit Tax collected by the government and spent much of it building housing and caring for families

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

National Women’s League chairwoman Joanna Lei, left, yesterday speaks with Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee spokeswoman Shih Chin-fang during a break at a public hearing in Taipei.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

National Women’s League (NWL) chairwoman Joanna Lei (雷倩) yesterday clashed with the Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee over its estimates of the league’s financial holdings and allegations that the league misappropriated public funds.

Police kept watch on pro-league demonstrators outside the Chang Yung-Fa Foundation building in Taipei as the league’s lawyer, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) deputy director of administration and management Lee Fu-hsuan (李福軒), and Lei entered the building to attend a public hearing.

The committee called the meeting to investigate whether the league illegitimately obtained its wealth, which could be confiscated if the committee so decides.

The hearing was only part of the legal process and no decision would be reached at its conclusion, the committee said.

Lee told the committee that the KMT never exercised effective control over the league, its personal appointments or its financial management.

In an apparent attempt to rebut the committee’s allegation that the league is affiliated with the KMT, Lee gestured toward Lei and asked: “Should I not be able to represent the party and ask for your resignation?”

Lei said that the league was never a KMT affiliate and the committee has no legal grounds to seize its assets.

“Every cent of the NT$38.5 billion [US$1.25 billion] held by the league is legitimate,” she said.

The committee’s reconstruction of the league’s finances overestimated income from its collection of the “Military Benefit Tax” on behalf of the government and leftover cash from its military housing fund last year, Lei said, adding that it also made several transcription errors.

The committee in a report said that from 1955 to 1989, NT$46.5 billion of taxes and surcharges — nominally the public’s voluntary contribution to the military — were funneled to the league.

By 2016, the league had accrued NT$30.1 billion in savings and interest, which would increase to NT$47.9 billion if assets hidden in trust funds were included, the report said.

Lei said that documents in her possession showed that the league was allocated only NT$6.51 billion, or 37 percent, of the NT$17.41 billion in contributions the government raised during the period.

Subtracting sums that the government failed to wire in 1987 and 1988, the league received NT$6.22 billion, of which NT$4.73 billion was spent on military housing, NT$1.48 billion on various services for military personnel and families, and NT$100 million on operational expenses, she said.

“The contribution to the military was not involuntary — it was a spontaneous act of patriotism from the people,” she said.

Most of the league’s standing committee members were not KMT members, showing that the group was financially and administratively independent of the party, the league’s attorney said.

The inquiry has relied on estimates of the league’s financial activities, following the destruction of league records last year by employees of the then-league chairwoman Cecilia Koo (辜嚴倬雲).

Asked for comment, committee spokeswoman Shih Chin-fang (施錦芳) said that the league had provided substantial and helpful information, and the line of inquiry would be dictated by the evidence.

Additional reporting by Yang Chun-hui

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