108 builders charged so far
in quake investigation

Prepared for internet by Vietnamese Missionaries in Taiwan

Taipei, Oct. 12, 1999 - To date, a total of 108 suspects have been charged for using negligent construction pratices leading to the collapse of buildings during the Sept. 21, 1999's quake, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) announced on Monday Oct. 11, 1999.

Of this number, 12 have been formally taken into custody, while 40 have been forced to post bail and 56 are restricted from leaving the country.

The suspects are mostly contractors and architects, and Vice Justice Minister Tseng Yung-Fu told reporters on Monday Oct. 11, 1999 that further legal proceeding would await a full investigation into what role the builders played in the collapses.

A number of studies involving prosecutors and scholars are already underway, including a Chelungpu Fault team. The group is examining housing in towns along the Taichung County fault - including Tungshih, Fengyuan and Taiping - to see what role human error played in the building collapses.

Taichung County saw especially heavy damage during the quake, and a group of homeless quake victims from there staged a high-profile sit-in demonstration in Taipei over the weekend.

A prosecutor with the team said that if some of the fallen or partly damaged structures are found to have toppled due to the fault's movement, those cases may be written off as unavoidable "natural disasters."

However, since a number of ruined buildings in the earthquake zones have found to have used vegetable oil cans, stacks of newspapers and styrofoam in place of brick and concrete, public and government circles have voiced suspicion that much of the fault lies with the builders.

Particularly strong criticism has been lodged against contractors responsible for the Wangchao (Dynasty), Chin Pali (Golden Paris) and Chichi (Miracle) highrise communities, all located in the city of Tali, where many of the weekend's protesters came from.

The head contractor for the Chin Pali, Chang Ming-chen, has currently taken up residency in Canada and has recently sent messages back to Taiwan in defense of his work on the building.

However, prosecutors said that Chang still owns 24 separate plots of land here which could be used to compensate victims from the building collapse.

While the land cannot currently be confiscated, the assets will be frozen pending the outcome of Chang's case.

Similarly, 69 individuals and firms are under similar controls.

Meanwhile, the construction investigations will continue under the auspices of district prosecutors in Taipei, Panchiao, Taoyuan, Taichung, Nantou, Changhua, and Yunlin.

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