Two tea dealers based in Chiayi County were convicted of fraud yesterday for conning Chinese tourists into buying their tea leaves at unreasonably high prices.
Judges at the Chiayi District Court said Wang Cheh-chien (王哲謙), 51, a tea dealer based in Leyeh Village, Alishan Township (阿里山), was discovered to have purchased ordinary tea leaves that were machine-harvested from tea fields in low-lying areas in Nantou County since July 2005.
He paid between NT$160 and NT$450 per 600g and then, after simply processing and packaging the product, sold the tea leaves to visiting Chinese tourists at more than 10 times the price he paid -- between NT$4,000 and NT$8,000 per 600g.
Wang presented the leaves as hand-picked Oolong tea originating from the Alishan mountains.
Forty-five percent of the proceeds from the sales were paid to travel agents as commission for bringing the Chinese tourists to his shop, the judges said.
Meanwhile, Pai Ming-hui (白銘輝), 43, another Alishan Township tea dealer, was discovered to have also purchased machine-harvested, average tea leaves from low-lying areas at NT$400 per 600g since early 2006, while reselling the product to Chinese tourists as "Alishan high mountain Oolong tea" at prices ranging from 400 yuan (NT$1,550) to 480 yuan per 600g.
Both Wang and Pai, who were charged in September 2006, admitted conning the Chinese tourists, the Chiayi judges said.
The judges decided to cut the sentence for Wang from 22 months in jail to 11 months, with three years' probation, after he expressed remorse and offered to donate NT$450,000 to good causes.
The 18-month sentence Pai received was also reduced to nine months in prison, with three years' probation after he also expressed remorse and offered to donate NT$300,000, the judges said.
Alishan is one of the attractions Chinese tourists consider a "must see" in Taiwan.