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3 Taipei officials charged over illegal hot springs

3 Taipei officials charged over illegal hot springs

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Three officials at Taipei City’s Construction Management Office were charged Friday over the illegal construction of the Guizikeng Country Club in the capital’s Yangmingshan area.
After Mayor Ko Wen-je took office last December, he launched a widespread campaign against illegal buildings across the capital. One of the items which drew his attention was the hot springs club in the Beitou District which had reportedly been torn down 12 times only to arise again larger each time.
The Shilin Prosecutors Office concluded that the club owner, Chen Chung-ming, had been involved in forgery to obtain a hot springs license and had received the cooperation of the three officials, named as Lu Kuo-tung, Lin Wei-ming and Hung Kao-huang.
After receiving the license in 2005, Chen had the older structure demolished but replaced by a newer and larger building which occupied more than 250 square meters of public land, prosecutors said. He never applied for a construction license but went on to build a coffee shop, a bath house and a restaurant. During the period from 2005 to 2009, Chen was accused 13 times of illegal construction by members of the public, but he was never stopped, prosecutors said.
The three defendants were in charge of the inspections, but they downplayed the problem and only had small portions of the illegal structures demolished, reports said.
During questioning, Chen reportedly admitted he had been occupying public land, but he claimed the construction work only amounted to repairs.
The three civil servants denied they had unfairly helped Chen, but said they had never noticed the illegal construction. Prosecutors said it was hardly credible that they saw smaller violations but never found much larger illegal construction items.
During searches, investigators also found a note in the books listing “NT$500,000 for the Construction Management Office,” but because all defendants denied any knowledge they had no way of checking the cash flow and finding any evidence of bribery, reports said.
Still, the three civil servants were accused of having benefited Chen to the tune of NT$370 million (US$11.3 million) in illegal business profits and NT$60 million (US$1.8 million) in illegal construction profits, reports said.