Supreme Court upholds 11-year prison term in food safety scandal

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In 2014, Cheng I Food Co., a subsidiary of industry giant Ting Hsin International Group, was found to have used gutter oil and imported oil meant for animal feed in its lard-based cooking oil products.

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s Supreme Court upheld on June 27 a high court ruling that sentenced Ho Yu-jen (何育仁), former president of Cheng I Food Co., the edible oil company hit by a food scare of 2014, to 11 years in prison.

According to a Supreme Court press release, Ho committed a total of 17 fraud crimes and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Ho has also been given another eight years in prison for committing a total of 33 aggravated fraud crimes.

Hu Chin-min (胡金忞), the former deputy manager of the company’s purchasing department, was given five years and six months, the court said.

Lin Ming-chung (林明忠), who from 2009-2014 provided lard and other substandard fat products from questionable sources found to be unfit for human consumption, received a jail term of nine years and 10 months, it said.

According to the Supreme Court, Ho Wu Hui-chu (何吳惠珠), another supplier to Cheng I, was given a jail term of six years and four months on charges of aggregated fraud.

The court also fined the Kaohsiung-based company NT$30 million (US$965,188).

Cheng I Food Co. issued a statement Wednesday calling the ruling unacceptable and said it will seek to clear the company’s name.

In 2014, Cheng I Food Co., a subsidiary of industry giant Ting Hsin International Group, was 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, one of Taiwan’s largest food manufacturers, in its food products.

In 2015, the Changhua District Court ruled that the Cheng I executives and suppliers were only guilty of negligence for failing to ask suppliers to provide documents and certification proving the source of materials and ensuring that they posed no risk to human health.

On Feb. 13, 2018, the Kaohsiung branch of the Taiwan High Court handed down heavier punishments to the four defendants on the grounds that they repeatedly and knowingly made substandard oil products by purchasing problematic materials from downstream suppliers.

It is not possible that the Cheng I executives involved did not know that the material was of questionable provenance, the high court’s Kaohsiung branch said in its verdict.

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 Hsiao Po-wen, Han Ting-ting and Chung Yu-chen)

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