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Substandard oil seller gets 22-year jail term

2017/09/13 18:45:20

Yeh Wen-hsiang (葉文祥)

Taipei, Sept. 13 (CNA) The Supreme Court upheld a high court decision regarding charges against substandard oil seller Yeh Wen-hsiang (葉文祥), sentencing the chairman of Chang Guann Co. to 22 years in jail, five of which can be commuted to fines.

Chang Guann Co.'s deputy general manager, Tai Chi-chuan (戴啟川), was given an 18-year jail term, four of which commutable to fines. Both sentences are final and cannot be appealed.

Both men were earlier convicted of violating the food safety law and aggravated fraud, a conviction that was upheld by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court also imposed a fine of NT$120 million (US$4 million) on the company and confiscated another NT$81.5 million of its illicit gains.

Charges against Kuo Lieh-cheng (郭烈成) -- that he sold substandard oil to Chang Guann -- were to be reinvestigated. Kuo has since changed his name to Kuo Ying-chih (郭盈志).

Pingtung County prosecutors in 2014 found that Kuo was an unlicensed manufacturer who sold Chang Guann Co. and Ching Wei Co. (進威公司) waste oil he collected after combining it with items such as lard, chicken oil, fish oil and leather oil.

The investigation began after a farmer in the southern Taiwan county's Zhutian Township whose farmland was polluted by Kuo's factory, tipped off the authorities about Kuo's unlawful activities, leading to a series of tainted oil scandals that created shockwaves throughout Taiwan.

Investigators found that Yeh and Tai bought substandard oil from Kuo at less than NT$30 per kilogram, branded it as "Chuan Tong Xiang lard" and sold it to 285 businesses, including food manufacturers, for between NT$40 and NT$55 per kilo, making a profit of more than NT$40 million.

The finding prompted the Ministry of Economic Affairs to cancel its authorization of 12 GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) products of Chang Guann Co.

In July 2015, the Pingtung District Court convicted Yeh and Tai of violations of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, handing down a 20-year sentence for each of them. Kuo was given a 12-year-sentence. They all appealed.

In August 2016, the Kaohsiung High Court ruled that in addition to breaking the food safety law, Yeh and Tai had actually defrauded the 285 businesses who unknowingly used the tainted oil to churn out food products that were sold to consumers.

The high court thus handed down a total of 23 years and six months in jail for Yeh, Tai and Kuo and fined Chang Guan NT$120 million. It also used a new law to confiscate NT$81.5 million in the company's illicit gains. That ruling was also appealed.

The supreme court on Wednesday turned down the appeal by Yeh and Tai but asked the high court to re-examine Kuo's case.

(By Wang Yang-yu and S.C. Chang)