Clarifying the ill-gotten party assets act

  • Date: 2016-08-31

I. Background

In January of 2016 the Democratic Progressive Party caucus proposed a draft “act on handling ill-gotten party assets” as part its effort to promote political reform and pursue transitional justice. After passing a third reading in the Legislature and becoming law on July 25, the act was renamed the Act Governing the Handling of Ill-gotten Properties by Political Parties and Their Affiliate Organizations, and promulgated by presidential order on August 10. The Act promotes transitional justice by providing a legal basis for the disposition of assets illicitly or unfairly acquired by political parties during Taiwan’s authoritarian era.

The Act stipulates that an Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee shall be established under the Executive Yuan. The committee began formal operations on August 31, 2016, empowered to launch investigations and recover ill-gotten assets to ensure a fair environment for political competition. Former legislator Wellington Koo has been appointed to lead the committee.

 

II. Key provisions

A. “Ill-gotten party assets” shall include all assets—except for party membership fees, political donations, election campaign contributions, government subsidies for elections, and interest generated from such funds—acquired by, delivered or transferred to, or registered with the trustees of, a political party or their affiliate organization since August 15, 1945, and that remain in that party’s possession as of the date on which the Act was promulgated.

B. A political party and its affiliate organizations and trustees shall, within one year of the date on which the Act was promulgated, register all targeted assets with the committee for investigation and disposition.

C. The committee may requisition information concerning income, business operations and taxes from the relevant agencies, and may require any juristic person, group or individual to provide records. If the committee deems an asset to be improperly acquired, it may order the party, its affiliate organization or trustee to return such asset to the state, local government or original rightful owner by a specified deadline. If the asset has already been transferred to another entity and cannot be returned, the value of that asset shall be recovered from other assets of the party, its affiliate organization or trustee.

D. The committee encourages the public to provide information on ill-gotten party assets or assets that have been concealed or undeclared by a party or its affiliate organization or trustee. If such information leads to the recovery of any ill-gotten asset, the committee may, at its discretion, offer a reward.

 

III. Promoting fair competition between political parties for sound democratic political development

A. Having a fair environment in which political parties can compete is a basic tenet of democracy. A political party should use membership fees, political donations, election subsidies and other legal means to support its party workers, and not use ill-gotten assets to pay their salaries or pensions.

B. If a political party, its affiliate organization or trustee uses ill-gotten party assets after the Act was implemented in violation of its prohibitive provisions, such asset transfers shall be deemed legally invalid. The committee will exercise its authority to conduct investigations, and render any requisite disposition and penalty pursuant to law.

 

IV. Conclusion

The ill-gotten properties act and assets settlement committee not only represent the administration’s response to longstanding public expectations for political reform, but constitute a milestone in Taiwan’s democracy, and a first step toward transitional justice. These efforts will restore healthy competition among all political parties and make Taiwan a more democratic society.