The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Administrative Appeal Committee has canceled a NT$1.85 billion (US$62 million) fine imposed on cooking-oil producer Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co (大統) last year by the Changhua County Public Health Bureau in an adulterated oil scandal, citing the principle of double jeopardy.
Administrative Appeal Committee executive-secretary Kao Tsung-hsien (高宗賢) said the committee had held three special meetings between April and last month to deliberate the case after Chang Chi filed a petition at the end of last year asking that the fine be annulled.
“Given that the Changhua District Court has handed down a punishment against the company’s chairman, Kao Cheng-li (高振利), [in December last year], the committee members decided to cancel the NT$1.85 billion fine in accordance with Article 26 of the Administrative Penalty Act (行政罰法),” Kao Tsung-hsien said.
Kao Tsung-hsien added that the bureau would only be allowed to reimpose the fine should Kao Cheng-li be acquitted by the court.
The article stipulates that if one single act constitutes simultaneously a criminal offense or offenses, as well as a breach of duty under administrative law, it shall be punishable under criminal law.
The district court sentenced Kao Cheng-li to 16 years in prison and fined him NT$50 million on charges of fraud and violations of the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) for blending edible oil products for the previous seven years with copper chlorophyllin and cottonseed oil, which are cheaper than other edible oils and toxic if they are left unrefined.
Two senior staff members, Wen Jui-pin (溫瑞彬) and Chou Kun-ming (周昆明), were given terms of two years and 10 months respectively.
Commenting on the committee’s decision, Consumers’ Foundation chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said the annulment of the fine would send a message to other companies that “it is okay to engage in illegal activities.”
“Unless the government is willing to increase the criminal penalties for corporations using illegal means to gain profits, there will be no one left to safeguard public health and food safety,” Chang said.
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