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Supreme Court rejects appeal by defendants in Tainan building collapse

2019/02/21 22:27:35

CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 21 (CNA) The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by four key members of a construction company who were sentenced to prison over the deadly collapse of an apartment complex in Tainan during an earthquake in 2016, saying it had found no legal flaws in the lower court's ruling.

The four men from Weiguan Corp - design department manager Hung Hsien-han (洪仙汗), structural engineer Cheng Tung-hsu (鄭東旭), and architects Chang Kuei-pao (張魁寶) and Cheng Chin-kuei (鄭進貴) -have now exhausted all appeals and will each have to serve a five-year prison sentence and pay a fine of NT$90,000 (US$2,919.95).

The sentences were imposed in July 2017 by the Taiwan High Court after the four men were convicted of negligent homicide in the case of the Weiguan Jinlong Complex collapse in February 2016, which resulted in 115 deaths.

The buildings in the complex, which housed some 230 residents, collapsed during a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Tainan because of shoddy construction and cost cutting, the high court ruled.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court said it had found no legal flaws in the high court's decision or in the evidence presented and was therefore rejecting the appeal.

In Taiwan, a five-year sentence is the maximum punishment for the crime of "homicide due to professional negligence."

According to the testimony given by investigators in the lower courts, the Weiguan Jinlong Complex was poorly designed and shoddily built, using inferior materials, to save on construction costs.

Investigators said that in order to cut costs, Weiguan Corp Lin Ming-hui (林明輝) ordered Hung to minimize the design work in the planning stage, cut back on the reinforcement for beam-column joints and reduce the size of some pillars.

It was also found that Cheng Tung-hsu failed to factor in the weight of some of the pillars and beams, thus reducing the building's net load-bearing capacity by 44.3 percent and its quake resistance by 16.3 percent, investigators said.

Meanwhile, Cheng Chin-kui and Chang helped the company acquire construction certification and other documents without properly supervising the design work, investigators said.

Hence, the combination of negligence and cost cutting led directly to the collapse of the building and resulted in the loss of life, investigators found.

Lin has been serving a five-year sentence for negligent homicide since September 2017 as he did not appeal the high court's verdict.

The Weiguan Jinlong Complex in Tainan collapsed on Feb. 6, 2016 in a magnitude 6.4 earthquake, killing 115 people and injuring 104.

(By Hsiao Po-wen and William Yen)