By Chen Yu-fu, Hsu Yi-ping and Jonathan Chin / Staff reporters, with staff writer
The Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee has asked the Taipei City Government not to issue a construction permit for a planned residential high-rise in the city’s Muzha District （木柵） on grounds that the land on which it is to be built could have been illegally appropriated by the Chinese Nationalist Party （KMT）.
The Yuanlih Group （元利機構） is seeking to construct a 38-story building on a 17,925 ping （59,256m2） plot near the former site of the KMT’s National Research Institute, which the developer bought from the party in August 2005, sources said.
The city government late last month called a hearing to determine whether the construction should be permitted.
During the hearing, an unidentified committee representative lodged the committee’s objection to the construction, saying that it could result in legal complications should the committee declare the property to be an illegal KMT asset and move to repossess it, sources said.
An ongoing investigation by the committee found that the KMT bought many plots around the institute after its establishment as the Research Institute of Revolution and Practice in 1953.
The plots were then illegally reclassified as “land under utilization by government agencies,” which allowed the KMT to avoid paying property taxes on them, sources paraphrased the representative as saying.
The legal status of the plot is further complicated by Yeh Sung-jen （葉頌仁）, son of the original landowner, Yeh Chung-chuan （葉中川）, saying that his father was forced to sign away the property by armed state security agents, the representative was quoted as saying.
The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office is probing former president Ma Ying-jeou （馬英九）, who as the KMT chairman in 2005 was implicated in illegally profiting the developer by selling the plot at below market value.
The KMT sold the plot for NT$4.25 billion （US$142.54 million at the current exchange rate） and paid half of the land value increment tax, which reduced the actual cost to the developer to NT$3.83 million, sources quoted the representative as saying.
Committee spokeswoman Shih Chin-fang （施錦芳） confirmed that the committee has recommended against allowing the construction.
Allowing the project would jeopardize the committee’s ability to return the land to the Yeh family should it determine that the KMT had acquired it illegally, Shih said.
Only half of the parcels in the project have been appropriately zoned for urban development, she added.
The city government has not made a final decision and it has told the committee that the concerns would be addressed at the next session of the land-use evaluation committee, Shih said.
The committee would also continue to investigate the group’s acquisition of Zhongxing Shanzhuang （中興山莊） plots near the institute, she added.
The Yuanlih Group said the Bank of Taiwan （臺灣銀行） sold a plot at a price similar to what the group paid the KMT.
By making these demands, the committee might have exceeded its authority or allowed its operations to be influenced by politics, the group added.