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Company owners, importer indicted in adulterated tea scandal

2014/12/09 20:44:25

Taipei, Dec. 9 (CNA) Nine tea company owners and one importer were indicted Tuesday for smuggling tea from China and selling it as authentic Taiwan-grown tea.

Those indicted include Wang Duan-kai, owner of Geow Yong Tea Hong, which has been in business since 1842. Tea products of Geow Yong, which has a flagship store in downtown Taipei, has been selected as one of Taipei's 10 best souvenirs.

According to Taipei's Shilin District Prosecutors Office, the tea traders and importer, based in Taipei and Miaoli, respectively, are alleged to have purchased tea leaves from Chinese traders at prices ranging from NT$30 (US$0.96) to NT$60 per kilogram between 2010 and 2014.

The tea was shipped to Taiwan by a trading company run by Meng Jung-chieh, who allegedly used forged documents to avoid customs inspections, prosecutors in charge of the case said.

The smuggled tea leaves were first shipped to a third country, such as Thailand and Singapore, before being transported to Taiwan, where they were mixed with locally produced tea leaves and then processed into oolong tea, green tea and jasmine tea before being sold to unsuspecting customers.

An investigation found the unscrupulous business people had carried out 50 smuggling trips, shipping around 1,000 to 2,000 metric tons of cheap Chinese tea to the island, prosecutors said.

They suspected that the sale of the adulterated tea might have begun as far back as 2007.

The 10 tea traders and the importer were charged with smuggling and forgery, according to the district prosecutors office.

Under Taiwanese law, tea products from China are banned from being exported to Taiwan, with the exception of puerh, a variety of fermented tea produced in Yunnan Province.

(By Liu Shih-yi and Elizabeth Hsu)