Opposition lawmakers were demanding answers from the judiciary and aviation authorities yesterday after a private jet belonging to the owners of Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團), which is under investigation for the ongoing cooking oil scandal, flew from Taiwan to China.
Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Director-General Shen Chi (沈啟) confirmed yesterday that a Gulfstream G450 private jet belonging to the Wei family departed from Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at about 9pm on Wednesday headed for China.
Answering questions at the legislature in Taipei, Shen also confirmed that Wei Ying-chou (魏應州), a senior Ting Hsin executive and eldest of the four Wei brothers, was on board the private aircraft.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
According to a Ting Hsin statement, Wei Ying-heng (魏應行), the youngest Wei brother, had left Taiwan for Beijing on board another of the family’s Gulfstream jets a few days ago.
The news sparked a furor because it was seen as an attempt by the Wei brothers to evade prosecution and remove their assets from Taiwan — the two Gulfstream G450 jets have a combined market value of US$50 million.
The four Wei brothers are the principal owners and senior executives of Ting Hsin and Wei Chuan Foods Corp (味全食品工業), which have been found to have sold adulterated oil and food products for many years.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) was furious.
“The Wei family’s private jets flew to China in front of everyone’s eyes. It is a clear attempt to hide their assets before the judiciary seizes them,” Tsai said.
Tsai said that it had been known a few days earlier that the two private jets were at the airport, but the second aircraft left Taiwan just before prosecutors applied to seize the Wei family’s assets on Wednesday evening.
“The Ministry of Justice allowed them to escape. It’s gross negligence by the government,” Tsai said.
Tsai added that he and other legislators had requested that prosecutors apply to seize the two jets on Monday, yet nothing had been done.
In response, CAA officials explained that the two jets were registered in China and as long as they complied with regulations, the aircraft could land and take off at the airport.
The CAA had contacted the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office on Wednesday after receiving the jet’s flight plan and were told the jet was not on the list of assets for seizure and that no one onboard was under investigation, officials said.
Besides the prosecutors’ office, CAA officials said that prior to the jet’s departure they also informed the Ministry of Justice and the National Immigration Agency, and after receiving consent and clearance the jet was allowed to fly to China.
The Ministry of Justice issued a statement yesterday saying that if prosecutors apply to seize the jets, the ministry can request the assistance of the Chinese government to detain the aircraft.
In a surprise move last night, one of the jets returned to Taipei International Airport from China at 8:30pm, Shen said.
Ting Hsin also confirmed the news, but it declined to reveal who was on board.
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