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2 transport officials taken into custody over graft

The Taipei District Court yesterday took Kao Chiya-nong (高嘉濃), former chief of the Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS, 台北市捷運局), and Wang Ming-tsang (王銘藏), a former section chief at DORTS, into custody yesterday over a corruption scandal involving the MeHas (美河市) joint development project in Xindian (新店).

According to prosecutors, Kao and Wang were detained yesterday morning after all-night questioning. Investigators raided the offices of DORTS and summoned several officials for questioning over the case of alleged profiteering. Prosecutors also indicated they suspect that other civil servants may be involved in the corruption case, and are planning to summon other individuals for questioning in the future and take any appropriate actions.

Prosecutors found that three different versions of land assessment reports were submitted by DORTS and the contractor Radium Life Tech Co. (日勝生), indicating possible corruption in the case.

Investigators said Kao and Wang requested that an assessment company modify the figures on its report, but the company refused on the grounds that it would violate professional ethics. Kao and Wang then modified the reports by themselves, according to testimony from a witness who worked at the assessment company.

Prosecutors considered this act as an attempt by Radium Life Tech Co. to illegally profit by intentionally underestimating the land's value. Prosecutors also plan to interrogate employees of Radium Life Tech Co. who were in charge of the bid.

Radium Life Tech Co. announced yesterday that they did not make any illegal profits in the MeHas case.

More Corruption May Be Found: Taipei City Council

As the MeHas project is under investigation, and prosecutors allege that the contractor incorrectly reported the value of the land in question, which may have caused the Taipei City government losses of at least NT$10 billion, many Taipei City councilors questioned whether there may be similar corruption cases among 83 other joint projects currently underway in Taipei City.

Besides the project in Xindian, corruption was also suspected in the Twin Tower project (雙子星開發案) at Taipei Main Station. In addition, the Control Yuan corrected the development plan for Neihu (內湖) MRT station, saying that the builder should not construct a fifteen-floor commercial building as the land was expropriated for use as public parking. Councilor Kao Chia-yu (高嘉瑜) said that the case in Neihu is similar to the Xindian case, in which the Taipei City Government purchased private land at low prices and let financial groups reap profits from the development project.

Councilor Lee Ching-yuan (李慶元) also pointed out that the authorities involved should strengthen their supervision in similar cases to avoid corruption in the future.

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Kao Chiya-nong (高嘉濃), former chief of the Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS), is taken into custody by the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office over allegations of profiteering in a joint development project at Xiaobitan MRT station (小碧潭捷運站), yesterday. (CNA)

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