Taiwan tycoon indicted over tainted cooking oil scandal

Taiwan tycoon indicted over tainted cooking oil scandal

TAIPEI - A Taiwanese tycoon detained for involvement in a recent food safety scandal was Tuesday charged with fraud for his alleged role in a food scare last year, officials said.

Wei Ying-chung is ex-chairman of Wei Chuan Foods Corp, a unit of food giant Ting Hsin International Group which owns the Master Kong instant noodle brand.

He was questioned last November on suspicion of fraud and violating the food safety law over a scandal involving several major cooking oil retailers.

Wei at the time was released on bail of Tw$10 million (S$418,000).

But prosecutors have now decided to press charges, suspecting that his business group had made illegal profits of up to Tw$870 million ($28.6 million).

"The suspect has committed serious crimes that have spawned grave hazards to people's health, and what's worse, he has shown no remorse for what he had done. We suggest he is given the heaviest punishment," Chang Chieh-chin, spokesman for the Taipei Prosecutors' Office, told reporters.

Wei could face a jail term of up to 15 years if convicted over the scare last year.

He and 12 other suspects, among them several company executives, came under investigation after a supplier that makes Wei Chuan-brand cooking oil was accused of using adulterated oil obtained from Changchi Foodstuff Co.

Changchi chairman Kao Chen-li was sentenced to 16 years in jail last December over the affair, which involved the addition of the banned colouring agent copper chlorophyllin to Changchi's cooking oil.

Wei has insisted that his company was unaware until recently that the oil purchased from Changchi was adulterated.

Tens of thousands of bottles of cooking oil tainted with the banned agent were recalled.

Taiwan's consumers, still reeling from the 2013 food scare, were outraged after Wei's business group was accused this month of selling thousands of tonnes of oil intended for animal food as regular lard and cooking oil.

Wei was taken into custody Friday as public anger mounted and a nationwide boycott of products produced by the Ting Hsin group was launched.

More than 1,000 restaurants, bakeries and food plants had used the tainted oil, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Many have apologised to customers for having unknowingly used the oil.

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