Wed, Nov 27, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Task force set to battle bootleg wine

FRAUDULENT The government has decided to get tough with the counterfeiters, whose fake rice wine is believed to have been behind a number of deaths

By Ko Shu-Ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

PFP Legislator Chiu Yi, second right, holds a conference in the Legislative Yuan yesterday urging the government to eradicate bootleg wine.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

In a bid to battle the problem of counterfeit rice wines that are thought to have killed several people in Ilan County, the Executive Yuan yesterday established a task force to crack down on bootleg rice wines.

Local governments are currently in charge of investigating counterfeit wines, while the Ministry of Finance is responsible for issuing brewing licenses and quality control.

The Cabinet is studying the possibility of reducing taxes on distilled liquor, including rice wine.

The tobacco and wine tax of the rice wine is NT$150 per liter and will go up to NT$185 per liter in 2004.

Statistics made available by the National Police Administration yesterday showed that between January and November the police found 158 people suspected of illegally making 44,000kg of fake rice wines, including finished and semi-finished products, with an estimated market price of NT$90 million.

As of Sept. 30, nearly 300 people have been indicted for illegally manufacturing wine and tobacco.

Addressing a press conference at the Executive Yuan yesterday afternoon, Cabinet Spokesman Chuang Shuo-hang (莊碩漢) said that the task force will tackle the rice-wine problem.

"Since the government's job is to ensure public health and safety, we don't allow unlicensed brewers to manufacture poor quality wines and jeopardize public health," Chuang said.

According to Susan Chang (張秀蓮), vice minister of finance, the 10-person task force will be in charge of supervising, integrating and tracking down bootleg tobacco and wines in conjunction with local government forces.

The Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corp -- formerly the government alcohol monopoly Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Board -- will join local health departments to offer free rice-wine tests.

The service will be available today and run through to the end of the year.

According to Hwang Ing-san (黃營杉), chairman of the Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corp, the company's 141 branch offices and breweries across the country will offer the service from 8am to 5pm during the weekdays.

"If we find any fake wine, we'll report it and let the judicial system take over," Hwang said.

Those who manufacture fake wines and cause physical damage to, or death of, an individual will face prosecution, said Vice Minister of Justice Hsieh Wen-ting (謝文定).

The Cabinet is considering more severe sentences for those unauthorized to manufacture, import or sell wines.

The Cabinet is also considering raising the bounties for investigators and individuals to encourage them to report cases.

In a bid to help consumers differentiate real wine from fraudulent bottles, the Cabinet is also considering establishing an identification system.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance yesterday requested the manufacturer of the Verolin brand rice wine to immediately stop production and sale of its products and recall those already in the market within seven days.

The ministry also called on the public to stay clear of the product, saying that it contains excessive levels of methanol, which is believed to be the component that caused the deaths in Ilan County.

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