Fri, Jan 23, 2009 - Page 1 News List

China sentences two to death over milk scandal

AP , SHIJIAZHUANG, CHINA

A Chinese court condemned two men to death and handed a life term to a former dairy boss yesterday for their roles in the country’s contaminated milk scandal, which ignited public anger and accusations of cover-ups.

The Intermediate People’s Court in Shijiazhuang gave the life sentence to Tian Wenhua (田文華), 66, the former general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu Group Co (三鹿), the dairy at the center of the crisis. She was the highest-ranking official charged in the food safety scandal.

At her trial last month, Tian pleaded guilty to charges of producing and selling fake or substandard products after infant formula tainted with the chemical melamine was blamed in the deaths of at least six babies and the illnesses of nearly 300,000 others.

The court sentenced Zhang Yujun (張玉軍), 40, to death for running a workshop that was allegedly China’s largest source of melamine, spokesman Wang Wei said. Geng Jinping was also given the death penalty for producing and selling toxic food. A third man, Gao Junjie, was given a suspended death sentence, which is usually commuted to a life sentence.

Some of the relatives of the victims, who gathered outside the court in cold weather in northern China, said Tian got off lightly.

“My granddaughter died. She [Tian] should die too, she should be shot. She has brought such harm to the public, to children,” said Zheng Shuzhen of Henan Province, who said her one-year-old granddaughter died in June after drinking Sanlu milk.

“We think Tian Wenhua’s sentence is just the beginning. As victims’ parents, we want justice for our children and we will call for it through reasonable and sensible means,” said Zhao Lianhai, who has set up a Web site to help organize parents whose children were sickened.

The sentences — the first handed down in the scandal — and a recent announcement of a compensation plan for the victims appear to be part of a government bid to put an end to the crisis.

During her Dec. 31 trial, Tian admitted she had known of problems with her company’s products for months before informing authorities.

The scandal was exposed in September.

Tian was also fined 20 million yuan (US$2.92 million) while Sanlu, which has been declared bankrupt, was fined 50 million yuan. Three other former Sanlu executives, including one now confined to a wheelchair after he tried to commit suicide last year, were given between five years and 15 years in prison.

Among the 12 sentences, two other life terms were handed down, while others were given jail terms of five to 15 years.A Chinese court condemned two men to death and handed a life term to a former dairy boss yesterday for their roles in the country’s contaminated milk scandal, which ignited public anger and accusations of cover-ups.

The Intermediate People’s Court in Shijiazhuang gave the life sentence to Tian Wenhua (田文華), 66, the former general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu Group Co (三鹿), the dairy at the center of the crisis. She was the highest-ranking official charged in the food safety scandal.

At her trial last month, Tian pleaded guilty to charges of producing and selling fake or substandard products after infant formula tainted with the chemical melamine was blamed in the deaths of at least six babies and the illnesses of nearly 300,000 others.

The court sentenced Zhang Yujun (張玉軍), 40, to death for running a workshop that was allegedly China’s largest source of melamine, spokesman Wang Wei said. Geng Jinping was also given the death penalty for producing and selling toxic food. A third man, Gao Junjie, was given a suspended death sentence, which is usually commuted to a life sentence.

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