The prosecution of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei mayoral candidate Sean Lien’s (連勝文) sister on charges of violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法) should be deferred, the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office said on Friday, recommending that Lien Hui-hsin (連惠心) be made to pay a NT$6 million (US$200,067) fine instead.
Prosecutors allege that Lien Hui-hsin was in charge of pharmaceutical company Geneherbs Biotechnology when its products were found to contain banned ingredients.
After initially denying any involvement in the firm’s management, Lien Hui-hsin admitted to prosecutors that she invested NT$15 million to start Geneherbs in 2008, but said that it was general manager Tseng Hsin-yi (曾心怡) who exercised full authority over Geneherbs. Yet prosecutors said they believed that despite lacking an official title in the company, she had absolute control over it.
The prosecutors’ office said it doubts that Tseng, as a salaried company official, was in charge and that it believes she was the one who reported to Lien Hui-hsin on company affairs, not the other way around.
The prosecutors’ office yesterday also recommend that Tseng’s prosecution be deferred in exchange for being fined NT$4 million.
The office said that when prosecutors questioned Lien Hui-hsin for the third time in May, prosecutors explained to her the difference that her admitting guilt would have in terms of sentencing, as opposed to if she was found guilty by the court.
She and Tseng then agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a deferred prosecution, the office added.
The two were quoted by prosecutors as saying that they were guilty of not ascertaining the source of the materials used by the company that manufactured Geneherbs products, Wellcare Pharmaceutical Co.
The office said it felt the defendants were appropriately contrite about having broken the law and recommended that they be fined based on the principle of proportional responsibility as a condition for their deferred prosecution. According to the principle, Lien Hui-hsin would be given a fine equal to 60 percent of the total sales generated by the products in question — NT$10 million — with Tseng to pay the remaining 40 percent.
The office also said it plans to indict Wellcare for violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act.
Reacting to the recommendations by the Taipei Prosecutors’ Office’s, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said the decision was clearly taken with political considerations in mind.
A fine barely constitutes a slap on the wrist and deferring prosecution would essentially enable the Lien family to resolve the matter by throwing money at the government, Tsai said, adding that NT$6 million is a drop in the ocean for them.
DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said the incident was a textbook example of politically-motivated decisionmaking.
Huang said the recommendations reflected the KMT’s attempt to lessen former Taipei EasyCard Corp chairman Sean Lien’s vulnerability to scandals to boost his low support ratings among the public, Huang said, adding that NT$6 million was a very cheap price to pay for sweeping the case under the rug.
From 2009 to October last year, Geneherds sold weight-loss products Wellslim Plus+ and Beauty Slim that were manufactured by Wellcare. The former was found to contain the banned substance cetilistat and the latter other unauthorized substances such as N-desmethylsibutramine, benzylpiperazine and sibutramine, prosecutors said.