The Cabinet yesterday approved an amendment to the Criminal Code that would increase the penalties for acts that artificially force up the prices of consumer or agricultural goods or hoarding as the government seeks to stabilize prices after recent hikes in fuel and electricity prices.
Under the amendment, which still needs to be approved by the legislature, people who hoard food, agricultural products or other necessary agricultural or industrial necessities, such as seeds, fertilizer and other materials to artificially force up prices would face a prison term of under three years and/or a NT$300,000 fine.
It would also impose criminal liability for the distribution of false information with the intent to drive up food prices, with a prison term of less than two years, short-term detention or a fine of NT$200,000.
At present, individuals who obstruct the sale or transportation of grain or other food items required by the public or the sale or transportation of seed, fertilizer, raw materials or other products needed in agriculture or industry by threats, violence or fraud face a prison term of no more than five years, short-term detention or a fine of NT$3,000 or less.
The amendment would significantly increase the penalties against organized fraud syndicates by imposing a maximum sentence of seven years, which cannot be commuted to a fine, as opposed to the existing five-year prison sentence for ordinary fraud and sentences of up to three years for fraud involving automatic teller machines.
In a bit to combat loan sharking, the amendment seeks to increase the penalties against people who take advantage of the urgent need, carelessness or inexperience of another to lend that person money or other things at usurious interest obviously inappropriate to the principal.
The amendment suggested the penalties be raised to a sentence of no more than three years, detention, or a fine of NT$300,000, from the current an imprisonment for not more than one year or detention, or a fine of not more than NT$1,000.