Who Made Wellington Koo Judge, Jury, and Executioner?
United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 7, 2016
Executive Summary: In September, the “Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee”, or CIPAS, ordered Bank SinoPac to freeze the KMT's accounts. It also froze KMT checks issued by the Bank of Taiwan, preventing the KMT from paying its employees. Now however, the Taipei High Administrative Court has ruled that CIPAS may have broken the law, and has ordered it to cease and desist. This ruling is a slap in the face for CIPAS, which has running rampant for several months.
Full Text Below:
In September, the “Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee”, or CIPAS, ordered Bank SinoPac to freeze the KMT's accounts. It also froze KMT checks issued by the Bank of Taiwan, preventing the KMT from paying its employees. Now however, the Taipei High Administrative Court has ruled that CIPAS may have broken the law, and has ordered it to cease and desist. This ruling is a slap in the face for CIPAS, which has running rampant for several months.
The High Administrative Court ruled on the following grounds: First, Bank SinoPac is a private sector entity. It lacks the authority to freeze depositors' accounts. CIPAS ordered the bank to cease “the fulfillment of its statutory obligations". Its order was ill-defined. Bank SinoPac lacks the authority to determine what constitutes "the fulfillment of statutory obligations." Second, CIPAS ordered the Bank of Taiwan to freeze nine promissory notes issued by the KMT. But according to the "Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations", the Bank of Taiwan was not a KMT debtor, and had no authority to impose such sanctions. Third, the KMT account at Bank SinoPac is for the payment of staff salaries. The freeze prevents the KMT from paying its employees. The Taipei City Labor Bureau has intervened, revealing the seriousness of the emergency.
The High Administrative Court judgment can be summed up in two sentences: CIPAS must obey the law and may not do whatever it damned well pleases. This is a clear and solemn reminder to Wellington Koo and CIPAS: Do not become a monster that abuses its power. You may not assume the role of judge, jury, and executioner.
When CIPAS was established, people hoped it would purge the remnants of party government equivalence, and establish a more equitable environment for party competition. CIPAS went into action soon after the change in ruling parties. It enjoyed some degree of public support. Even the KMT leadership felt the need for self-examination, and agreed that the party should divest itself of all its assets. Unfortunately, these conditions gave Wellington Koo the impression that he wielded unlimited power, that he was an invincible Iron Man who could attack and destroy whomever he wished. CIPAS was hastily slapped together. Its actions have been tyrannical. It has suddenly frozen accounts, suddenly prohibited the cashing of checks, and suddenly concluded that this or that business or asset was “improperly acquired", and imposed prohibitions or punishments. Its actions have clearly not been about recovering party assets, but about wiping out the KMT.
In short, under the aegis of the Executive Yuan, CIPAS has become a monster with unlimited power. It sees itself as policeman, investigator, prosecutor, and judge, all in one. Wellington Koo, being the lawyer that he is, has seized runaway power. The key factor was the Legislative Yuan's passage of the "Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations" in the middle of this year. Legislators failed to consider whether legislative means were commensurate with legislative intent. In a murderous rage, the ruling party rammed the bill through. An unsound bill fell into the hands of the ambitious Wellington Koo, and rapidly morphed into something very different.
For example, CIPAS may have the authority to declare that the KMT's deposits with Bank SinoPac were "illicit party assets”. But did it have the authority to order the bank to freeze the KMT's bank accounts? The answer is no, at least according to the Taipei High Administrative Court. In fact, according to the provisions of the Banking Act, absent a legal decision, a bank may not stop payment on deposits or remittances based on demands by third parties. The provisions of the banking law protect private property from unnecessary interference or restrictions. They maintain freedom and stability within the financial order. Can we allow this order to be destroyed by the arbitrary actions of CIFAS?
CIPAS also declared that the Central Investments Company or Xinyu-Taiwan Enterprises were KMT "affiliated organizations". But the Tsai government has a long way to go before it can classify the tens of billions of dollars of assets in these two companies as state owned. Modern enterprise investment and cross-shareholding makes it impossible to shut down the Central Investments Company without affecting other companies. When the "Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations" was formulated, these factors were overlooked. If the Tsai government fails to dot its “i”s and cross its “t”s when dealing with the party assets issue, it will be remembered as a party loots the nation's assets. It will also make many private businesses uneasy. When Changhua County forced Taiwan Chemical's Changhua plant to close, was it not inspired by CIPAS tyrannical behavior?
At this stage, CIPAS must first inventory assets. Only then can it limit and confiscate assets. It must carefully consider the legitimacy of its actions. It must not assume the role of judge, jury, and executioner. CIPAS does not have the authority to gobble up everything it sees. It is under the aegis of the Executive Yuan. If it arrogates to itself the authority of judges, it has vastly exceeded its authority.
2016-11-07 02:05:19 聯合報 社論