Taiwan court detains suspect in oil scandal case

TAIPEI - Taiwan Pingtung District Court yesterday decided to detain Guo Lieh-cheng, the prime suspect who reportedly supplied refuse oil to Chang Guann Co. to manufacture lard oil.

Guo was previously released on bail of NT$50,000 (S$2,100) , but prosecutors lodged an appeal to detain the suspect on Friday, arguing that Guo is likely to flee the country to avoid prosecution, since the suspect withdrew all funds (totaling NT$860,000) from a bank account.

Prosecutors said that Guo may have supplied refuse oil to companies other than Chang Guann, and he is also suspected of colluding with Ching Wei Co., an animal feed manufacturer that allegedly made purchases from Guo.

The detainment decision was reached by a panel of three judges at the Pingtung District Court. In a press conference held yesterday, Chief Justice Pang Zheng-bing said that Guo is suspected of violating the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, and that detainment is deemed necessary to aid investigations.

In yesterday's trial, Guo argued that he had withdrawn money from his bank account in order to repay debts to creditors. He reportedly appeared unfazed when notified of the detainment.

Tainted Oil's Wide Ramifications

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday released its latest findings from the tainted oil investigation. The FDA said that Chang Guann Co. produced 782 tons of oil products with Guo's refuse oil. While 137 tons have been pulled from shelves, the remaining 645 tons are already in the market, and most of it is likely to have been consumed by the public.

According to the FDA, a total of 235 food companies have made purchases from Chang Guann; 190 companies have so far admitted making purchases.

In addition, the FDA confirmed that, as of yesterday, a total of 110 products on shelves have been found to contain low-grade oils, 12 of which are made by Wei-Chuan Foods Co., while another 20 are made by Chi Mei Frozen Food.

Director of the FDA's Food Safety Division Pan Chih-kuan pointed out that Chang Guann produced some 30,000 tons of oil in the last year, 782 of which were made using Guo's low-grade oil.

The New Taipei City Government said that, as of yesterday, a total of 16,769 kilograms of the tainted lard oil made by Chang Guann have been pulled off shelves. However, 14,775 kilograms of tainted oil have been sold to various eateries in Northern Taiwan and may have been consumed by the public.

According to the FDA, another company, GASSHO Biotech Co., which made purchases from Chang Guann, has distributed lard oil products to up to 473 restaurants and food companies, most of which are located in Central and Southern Taiwan.