The Kaohsiung Branch of the Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld the conviction of Kuo Ying-chih (郭盈志), the owner of an unlicensed cooking oil factory, and his employee, Shih Min-yu (施閔毓), for contravening the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法), but reduced their prison sentences.
Kuo, who was formerly known as Kuo Lieh-cheng (郭烈成), was convicted of eight counts of contravening the act in connection to a 2014 tainted oil scandal.
Yesterday’s ruling reduced his prison term to 19 years and four months, while Shih’s sentence was reduced to 20 months.
Kuo’s factory in Pingtung County was a supplier to Chang Guann Co Ltd (強冠企業), which sold lard and other cooking oil products. An investigation found that Kuo and Shih bought recycled oil from leather goods factories, hog feed producers, fish processing plants, restaurant grease traps and kitchen fryers, as well as inferior-grade fat labeled as not for human consumption.
The supplies were mixed into cooking oil products, which Kuo claimed were fit for human consumption and sold to Chang Guann.
Chang Guann used Kuo’s oils in various products, including “fragrant lard oil” under its cooking oil brand of Chuan Tung (全統), which were sold in markets nationwide, as well as to restaurants and street food vendors.
The tainted oil scandal eventually ensnared Wei Chuan Foods Corp (味全食品工業), a subsidiary of Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團), which purchased oil products from Chang Guann for the manufacture of various food products.
In the first ruling in the case, the Pingtung District Court in July 2015 convicted Kuo and Shih on charges of aggravated fraud and contravening the act, handing Kuo a 12-year sentence and Shih an eight-year term.
The men appealed, and in August 2016 the Taiwan High Court upheld their convictions, but raised Kuo’s sentence to 23 years and six months while reducing Shih’s to 30 months.
In yesterday’s ruling, the judges’ said the leniency shown to Shih was warranted because “Shih was hired to help mix the oil materials for processing and served as a truck driver for deliveries to other companies. He only followed instructions given by Kuo and did not take part in decisionmaking on sale and pricing negotiations. All of the money went to Kuo.”
“As all the business decisions and company operations were directed by Kuo, it is therefore considered that Shih played a lesser role in the criminal offenses. He also cooperated with the judiciary during the investigation,” the statement said.
Yesterday’s ruling can be appealed.
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