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Businessman gets 16-year sentence in edible oil scandal

2013/12/16 16:17:40

(CNA file photo)

Taipei, Dec. 16 (CNA) The owner of an edible oil company at the center of one of Taiwan's largest food safety scandals in recent years was given a 16-year sentence Monday and detained immediately.

Kao Chen-li, chairman of Chang Chi Foodstuff Co., was handcuffed and taken away when he reported to a police station as a condition of his bail.

He had chosen not to appear before the Changhua District Court for his sentencing.

In his absence, the court sentenced him to the lengthy prison term for multiple counts of false labeling of merchandise and fraud, in violation of the Criminal Code. Kao was also found guilty of violating the Act Governing Food Sanitation.

In addition to the sentence, his company based in the central county of Changhua was ordered to pay NT$50 million (US$1.69 million).

Two other defendants in the case -- a chief of oil formula at Chang Chi and an employee responsible for mixing the ingredients -- were each sentenced to two years and ten months, suspended for five years.

Kao's lawyer said that his client would appeal.

The public was shocked by the revelation in October that Chang Chi, the producer of the popular Tatung brand of cooking oils, had mixed premium olive and grapeseed oils with less expensive cottonseed oil and sold them as 100 percent pure products.

Kao also ordered his workers to add potentially harmful chemicals, including copper chlorophyllin, to the products without the approval of the authorities. The substances were added to Tatung olive oil and grapeseed oil to give them a darker, and presumably purer, appearance.

Until Chang Chi was shut down and fined NT$28 million in mid-October by the county government, it had sold dozens of adulterated and falsely labeled oil products for at least seven years, worth many billions of Taiwan dollars.

(By Wu Tse-hao and Jay Chen)