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Politics

Nationalists face legal and financial barrage

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's defeated ruling Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), party is facing various legal and financial threats after being comprehensively routed in presidential and parliamentary elections over the weekend.

     The highest profile case is the Taipei city administration's attempt to have prosecutors investigate whether outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou, during his time as the capital's mayor, helped a local company in 2004 to benefit unlawfully from the future operations of Taipei Dome.

     On Monday, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, a DPP ally, told reporters that he will ask prosecutors to probe Ma's dealings with Farglory Group on the Taipei Dome, a controversial build-operate-transfer stadium and multipurpose complex in the city.

     The legal hounding of the Nationalists has echoes of the political turmoil in Taiwan in 2008 when outgoing President Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was prosecuted for corruption. The disgraced former president ended up spending six years in jail before getting medical parole in early 2015. Several other DPP faced similar fates.

     The presidential office has not responded to Ko's statement, but said earlier in the day that Ma would cooperate fully with any investigation.

     Taipei's Clean Government Committee released a report last year saying that Ma enabled Farglory to generate abnormal profits by failing to ensure the company paid royalties for using government land. The royalties were waived, and the committee estimated that Farglory stood to benefit by as much as 116.9 billion New Taiwan dollars ($3.48 billion) over the 50 years it retains the operating rights for Taipei Dome.

     Meanwhile, investigators on Monday morning raided the office a senior Nationalist official, Lin Hsi-shan, over possible involvement in another corruption scandal. Lin is the key aide to Wang Jin-pyng, the outgoing speaker of parliament, and local media have speculated that Wang might be the real subject of interest.

     Lin was questioned in the afternoon, according to an investigation bureau official who asked not to be named. After the raid, Wang told local reporters he would await the outcome of investigations.

     Local TV footage showed a computer being removed from Lin's office. There have been allegations in the press that Lin received kickbacks on a computer procurement project, but this has yet to be substantiated by investigators.

     The Nationalists' problems look set to deepen. President Elect Tsai Ing-wen has said she will make it a priority for the new parliament to pass a bill confiscating the losing party's assets, which have been declared to be around NT$25.5 billion.

     According to the DPP, the assets should be returned to the nation because they were plundered after the Japanese left Taiwan in 1945 at the end of 50 years of colonial rule. The Nationalists maintain all the party's assets were obtained legally.

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