The tainted oil scandals involving Chang Guann Co and Ting Hsin Oil and Fat Industrial Co have had a major negative effect on the nation’s food industry.
When the heavy 22-year prison sentence meted out to Yeh Wen-hsiang (葉文祥), chairman of the old and well-established oil brand Chang Guann, was finalized, he drank detergent in an apparent attempt to take his life, although the hospital reported that he was not in a critical condition.
Leaving aside speculation about whether Yeh was trying to postpone the start of his sentence, there is another interesting aspect of the case.
Former Ting Hsin chairman Wei Ying-chung (魏應充) was also accused of mixing inferior oil into the company’s products, but while Yeh was sentenced to 22 years in prison, Wei was given a not-guilty verdict.
The discrepancy raises concerns about the impartiality of the judiciary.
Yeh and Wei were accused of mixing inferior oil into their company’s products and of violating Article 15 of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法), which stipulates that foods or food additives that, among other things, have been adulterated or counterfeited should not be manufactured, processed, prepared, packaged, transported, stored, sold, imported, exported, presented as a gift or publicly displayed.
Yeh’s sentence was based on this article and on the fraud regulations in the Criminal Code.
However, in the case against Wei — who served as vice chairman of the National Business and Industrial Leaders’ Support Group for former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — the court raised the prosecutors’ burden of proof by demanding evidence that the oil “could be suspected to have a negative effect on physical health,” a requirement with no legal basis.
Although the two cases were similar, the court came to the conclusion that Wei was not guilty.
In Chang Guann’s case, the court ruled that Yeh’s actions violated fraud regulations in Article 339-4 of the Criminal Code and articles 15 and 49 of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation.
However, in Ting Hsin’s case, the court ruled that the prosecutor had not provided substantive evidence showing that the Vietnamese company Dai Hanh Phuc Co had bought and used oil from individual contractors that was made from uninspected pigs that had died from disease, which was then imported by Ting Hsin.
Therefore, Wei and others who stood accused of having violated Article 49 of the food safety act by selling adulterated or counterfeited products were not guilty.
Yeh and Wei were both charged with mixing inferior oil into their products, yet Wei was set free, while Yeh was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Yeh is probably not the only one to question whether the scales of justice lean toward the rich and powerful.
Huang Di-ying is a lawyer.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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