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September 26, 2017

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MOJ denies violations in MeHas project

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) clarified yesterday it had only suggested that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) amend the Mass Rapid Transit Act (大眾捷運法) in accordance with a recent judicial interpretation and did not intend to imply that there was anything unconstitutional with Taipei's MeHas City (美河市) development project.

Local media reported that the MOJ said the MeHas City project, a joint development project implicated in a corruption scandal, may be unconstitutional. In response to media reports, MOJ Deputy Minister Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said the MOTC only asked the MOJ to provide advice on amending the Mass Rapid Transit Act along instructions given by the Control Yuan.

Chen showed the document to reporters and said that the MOJ had asked the MOTC to refer to Judicial Interpretation No. 443, which relates to the conditions under which public land may be transferred to private ownership, and to solicit more opinions in order to further deliberate on the issue. The reply did not suggest that the current approach was unconstitutional, said Chen.

Chen further explained that although the current Mass Rapid Transit Act already regulates related development processes, it does not cover some of the regulations pertinent to transferring public land to private ownership in a joint-development project. The MOJ suggested that the MOTC should amend the Mass Rapid Transit Act to authorize relevant administrations to deal with similar issues.

Taipei City's Response

Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) also commented on the report, saying that the Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) had received an official document from the MOJ last December which did not mention any unconstitutional actions taken in the course of the development project.

  As to the issue of land allotment in the case, Tsai Hui-sheng (蔡輝昇), commissioner of DORTS, said it is true that the land originally expropriated in the project was about 99-percent publicly owned. After the land was expropriated, Xindian Depot (新店機廠) and Xiaobitan MRT station (小碧潭站) were built. These facilities occupied over 30 percent of the original plot.

  "The joint project was only constructed on the rest of the land (expropriated), which is about 67 percent of the entire plot. Therefore, the current percentage of public land (in the project) is actually higher than many thought," said Tsai.

Tsai also added that DORTS recently assigned three other construction companies to re-evaluate building costs as well as the value of land in the project after the Control Yuan's correction, which pointed out the percentage of public land allotment was too low. Tsai believed that the percentage of public land will be increased after the revaluation.

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