Former Ting Hsin chairman indicted over fraud, food safety violations, forgery

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Taipei District Prosecutors' Office (TDPO) indicted 13 people, including former Chairman of Ting Hsin Oil & Fat Industrial Co. and Wei Chuan Foods Corporation Wei Ying-chung, as well as Wei Chuan General Manager Chang Chiao-hua, over the Ting Hsin oil scandal on charges of fraud, forgery and violating the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation yesterday.

Prosecutors deemed that Wei showed no remorse for his acts, which not only damaged Taiwan's reputation as a food producer but also spurred public concern over food safety, asking that the court exact the most severe punishment on Wei.

In addition, prosecutors also believe that Wei has gained NT$790 million (S$33 million) in illegal profits from Ting Hsin's oil factory and NT$82 million from Wei Chuan.

According to prosecutors, Wei's act of mixing non-edible oil with cooking oil in products and selling them to the public can be considered fraud and warrants a five-year prison sentence.

If the court considers that Wei has been continuously violating the law and causing serious consequences, Wei may face a maximum 15-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors started investigating Wei and his firm in November last year after the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) revealed the fact that Wei Chuan had been using oil from Tatung Changchi Foodstuff Co., an oil manufacturer that had been discovered mixing cottonseed oil and copper chlorophyllin complex, a prohibited additive, in its olive oil products that claimed to be 100 per cent pure.

The Taipei District Prosecutors' Office searched Wei Chuan Company for evidence and summoned Wei for questioning last year over this matter. Wei claimed he was innocent and was later released on NT$10 million bail and restricted from exiting the country.

After the investigation, prosecutors found that his firm altered its supplier from a Spain-based company to Tatung Changchi to save on costs.

Although Wei Chuan's department of quality control reported that these oil products from Tatung Changchi were possibly problematic, the company still followed Wei and other managers' instructions to keep using tainted oil.

Prosecutors also discovered that the firm demanded inspectors loosen the standards for its products and tried to conceal this fact from prosecutors by providing false examination documents during inspections, claiming that the firm did not use any tainted oil.

As for the company itself, prosecutors advised the court to levy fines based on the law. So far local prosecutors, including those based in Taipei, Tainan, Changhua, Chiayi and Kaohsiung, are all investigating Ting Hsin's oil scandal.

The Taipei Prosecutors Office is the first one to file charges.

Wei Chung Responds

Responding to the indictment, Wei Chuan issued a press release late yesterday saying that it feels sorry about the prosecutors' decision and will hire lawyers to clear the company's name as well as protect consumers' rights.

In addition, Lo Feng-yin, Wei's lawyer, also arranged a meeting with Wei to inform him about the indictment yesterday. Lo stated that they are expecting to apply for an interlocutory appeal on Wednesday.