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Ting Hsin former chairman jailed in oil scandal

2017/07/28 15:17:37

Taipei, July 28 (CNA) Wei Ying-chung (魏應充), the former chairman of Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co. (頂新) and Wei Chuan Foods Corp. (味全), found guilty of fraud in an oil adulteration scandal exposed in 2013, began a two-year prison term on Friday.

Asked for a comment before beginning his sentence, 60-year-old Wei said "When tested by Heaven, one must accept the hand one is dealt."

Wei reported to Taipei District Prosecutors Office at 9:46 a.m. where he was met by a crowd of reporters. After undergoing a lengthy identification procedures he was handcuffed and driven to Taipei Prison.

Wei is the third of four brothers who own Changhua County-based Ting Hsin International Group, which operates numerous food brands, such as Master Kong instant noodles, Wei-Chuan Foods and Dicos. He took charge of the group's cooking oil and Wei Chuan business in Taiwan before the scandal.

In late 2013, Ting Hsin Oil and Fat was found to have used adulterated oil obtained from Chang Chi Foodstuff Co. (大統長基) in its finished products since 2007.

Chang Chi mixed cottonseed oil and other cheap oils into its more expensive grapeseed and olive oil products, and in some cases, added copper chlorophyllin, a colorant used to make the substitutes look more like olive oil.

In 2014, Ting Shin Oil and Fat, along with Cheng I Food Co. (正義油品), another firm previously headed by Wei, were found to have used gutter oil and imported oil meant for animal feed in its lard-based cooking oil products. The oils were also used by Wei Chuan in its food products.

On Oct. 21, 2014, prosecutors indicted Wei, former Ting Hsin Oil and Fat President Chang Mei-feng (常梅峰) and former Wei Chuan President Chang Chiao-hua (張教華), along with several others, on charges of fraud, forgery and food-related regulatory violations.

In Wei's case, prosecutors charged that the defendant, in a bid to cut production costs, changed the formula of the company's 14 blended oil products, including one that used 98 percent cheap palm oil and only 1 or 2 percent olive or grapeseed oil, but marketed it as a premium class of blended oil.

Wei was originally sentenced to four years in prison by Taipei District Court in the first trial in March 2016, during which Chang was acquitted of the charges and others were given penalties ranging from five months to three years and 10 months.

After Wei's appeal, the Intellectual Property Court reduced his sentence to two years in the second trial in April 2016.

The ruling is final and cannot be appealed because prosecutors charged Wei and the other defendants with fraudulent labeling of products.

As a result, the case fell under the jurisdiction of the Intellectual Property Court, which found Wei and the other defendants not guilty of knowingly using adulterated oil obtained from Chang Chi Foodstuff.

There was not enough evidence to show that Wei and the other defendants had knowledge of or could have reasonably foreseen the oil adulteration, according to the Intellectual Property Court.

As for Wei's sale of substandard lard-based cooking oil, Changhua District Court handed down a not-guilty ruling in November 2015. The prosecution has appealed that ruling.

Wei resigned from his post as chairman of Wei Chuan, Ting Hsin Oil and Fat and Cheng I -- subsidiaries of Ting Hsin International Group -- in 2014.

The high-profile oil adulteration scandal led to a massive public boycott of Wei Chuan products and a major drop in sales. It also prompted government action to increase penalties for food safety violations.

(By Tien Yu-pin and Elizabeth Hsu)