The heated battle over tainted cooking oil continued yesterday as Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團) executive Wei Ying-chun (魏應充) blasted a court ruling against him on Friday, with the court responding in kind.
Through his lawyer Ming-hsien (余明賢), Wei issued a statement vowing to appeal, while saying that the ruling was based on inference and not on solid evidence. Wei also accused the court of taking liberties by overstepping its jurisdiction.
In Friday’s ruling, the Taipei District Court found Wei, as the former chairman of group subsidiary Wei Chuan Foods (味全食品), guilty of defrauding consumers and violating the nation’s food safety laws in the tainted cooking oil scandal and given a four-year jail term. Eleven Wei Chuan employees were also found guilty.
Asserting that he is not guilty, Wei issued a statement challenging the ruling.
“How can the chairman of a company know every aspect of a company’s business, however large or small it is, and is it a crime to seek lower purchasing costs?” he asked in the statement.
“How can the court say we defrauded [the public] when we have complied with the legal requirements on product labeling? Moreover, our food products do not pose a risk to human health, so why punish us for violating the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法)?” the statement said.
The district court issued a statement yesterday afternoon, answering Wei’s queries by citing the results of its investigation.
“Wei had convened regular meetings on the company’s cooking oil business, where he gave clear instructions, which were recorded in the meetings’ minutes and other documents. In some cases, he provided implicit guidance to his staff, and his actions had a direct influence on the violations [committed by the company],” the statement said.
“Wei had clearly instructed his employees to use lower-priced palm oil to replace higher-priced soybean oil for the company’s cooking oil production. This was not done solely to lower its production costs. Moreover, in the production of pure cooking oil, the international prices of olive oil and grapeseed oil went up in 2011 to 2013, but the purchasing costs of Wei Chuan and Ting Hsin companies declined during that period,” it said.
“The court did not find that Wei Chuan had complied with legal requirements on labeling. The court concluded it was a case of fraudulent labeling and in violation of the Criminal Code and other laws on fraudulent labeling,” it said.
As for Wei’s question about violating the food safety act, “the court interprets the article as: When adulterants are added to food products, it is in violation of the law,” it said.
A number of commentators and netizens reacted with anger over Wei’s attitude, with some saying the court should have given him 40 years in prison or given Ting Hsin Group an even larger fine.
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