The Supreme Court yesterday issued a final verdict in the case of unlicensed cooking oil producer Kuo Lieh-cheng (郭烈成), ordering a combined sentence of 20 years in prison for aggravated fraud and breaches of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法).
Kuo had operated an underground cooking oil factory in Pingtung County’s Jhutian Township (竹田) that supplied processed oil materials to Kaohsiung-based Chang Guann Co (強冠企業), which made various “fragrant lard” products that were sold nationwide under the Chuan Tung brand and generated profit estimated at NT$6.5 million (US$216,436 at the current exchange rate).
An investigation pointed to Kuo as one of the principle figures in the 2014 tainted oil scandal, along with Chang Guann executives and Pingtung-based animal feed producer Ching Wei Co (進威).
Related cases that year embroiled Ting Hsin International Group (頂新集團), as well as its subsidiaries Wei Chuan Food Corp (味全) and Cheng I Food Co (正義食品), which purchased oil products from Chang Guann for the production of food products.
Judges yesterday upheld the verdict in the second retrial last year by the Kaohsiung branch of the High Court, which found Kuo guilty of eight offenses, each carrying a jail term of between two and three years, for a combined 20-year prison sentence, which Kuo’s defense team appealed to the Supreme Court.
As yesterday’s ruling is the final verdict, 38-year-old Kuo, who during the legal proceedings changed his name to Kuo Ying-chih (郭盈志), is to serve out the sentence.
In last year’s High Court retrial, Kuo’s employee Shih Min-yu (施閔毓) was handed a reduced 20-month term, from an initial 30 months, after being found guilty of involvement in the scheme.
Prosecutors had 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 investigation had found that at the factory, the two men mixed and processed the materials into what they labeled as “cooking oil products,” which Kuo claimed were fit for human consumption and sold to Chang Guann.
Chang Guann then used the oils at its food manufacturing plants to make various products, including the “fragrant lard,” which were sold to nearly 300 food retailers and market grocers, eventually ending up in restaurants, street food vendors and homes nationwide, prosecutors said in their indictment.
In the first ruling in the case, the Pingtung District Court in July 2015 convicted Kuo and Shih of aggravated fraud and contraventions of the act, handing Kuo a 12-year sentence and Shih an eight-year term.
The men appealed and in August 2016 the High Court upheld their convictions, but increased Kuo’s sentence to 23 years and six months, while reducing Shih’s term to 30 months.
After another appeal, the High Court in 2018 reduced both of their terms, with Kuo given 19 years and four months, while Shih’s sentence was reduced to 20 months.
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