Several companies have been accused of using loopholes in trade rules and forgery to import cheap Chinese tea, mixing it with local products and repackaging it to sell as top-grade Taiwanese tea.
The Shilin District Prosecutors’ Office in Taipei said seven tea companies and trading firms were allegedly involved in the fraud, with products including Taiwanese oolong tea, green tea and jasmine tea.
On Friday, prosecutors questioned the owners of three tea companies, Wang Duan-kai (王端鎧) of Geow Yong Tea Hong, Yeh Pu-chen (葉步真) of the Harume tea company and Wang Ming-yung (王銘鏞) of Zu Chang Tea Co.
Meng Jung-chieh (孟榮杰), who operates an international trading company, was also questioned and later released on NT$1 million (US$33,000) bail.
Seven tea firm owners or chairmen, including the three above, were released after questioning on bail ranging from NT$200,000 to NT$500,000.
Meng allegedly initiated the operation in 2010 by purchasing low-price tea in China, exporting it to Singapore, then shipping it to Thailand, where papers were forged to show that the tea was grown in Myanmar, prosecutors said.
“The fake Burmese tea products were imported to Taiwan, with one or two containers arriving each month. After four years, the merchants might have made profits of up to several hundred million New Taiwan dollars,” prosecutors said.
Account books were seized during the investigation, and imported products were traced to a tea producer in Ningpo, China.
Investigators said that an estimated 1.2 million kilograms of Chinese-grown tea could remain in the nation, and it is likely mixed with locally grown tea at a 10-to-1 ratio.
Four of the seven companies were quoted by prosecutors as saying during the questioning that they knew they were using tea imported from China.
“They said they used the imported products because government regulations are too restrictive, and to cash in on the high demand for Taiwanese tea, they had to resort to the measures to get around the restrictions,” prosecutors said.
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