Asia

Taiwanese Businessman Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Olive Oil Fraud

Wei Ying-chung was sentenced to a four-year prison term and fined more than $15 million for blending inferior grade palm and other low-cost oils into a mixture that was then marketed as high-grade olive oil.

Wei Ying chung was sentenced to a four-year prison term in Taiwan for olive oil fraud.
Mar. 30, 2016
By Wendy Logan
Wei Ying chung was sentenced to a four-year prison term in Taiwan for olive oil fraud.

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In one of the most egre­gious and exten­sive exam­ples of food fraud, forgery, and reg­u­la­tory vio­la­tions ever pros­e­cuted in East Asia, the former chair­man of Wei Chuan Foods Corp was found guilty in a Taipei court­room of sell­ing adul­ter­ated oil prod­ucts.

Wei Ying-chung was sen­tenced to a four-year prison term and fined more than $15 mil­lion for blend­ing infe­rior grade palm and other low-cost oils into a mix­ture that was then mar­keted as high-grade olive oil. The court deemed the prod­ucts, which also con­tained arti­fi­cial col­or­ing, harm­ful to public health, and many observers felt the chair­man got off easy, accord­ing to reports in the Taipei Times.

Eleven other defen­dants were also found guilty of cre­at­ing fraud­u­lent prod­uct labels and other “breaches of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation,” accord­ing to the ruling on March 26. Among them were employ­ees of both Wei Chuan Corp. and Ting Hsin Oil and Fat. Each received sen­tences rang­ing from five months to four years.

A story in 4‑Traders on the day the ver­dicts were announced delved fur­ther into the depths the com­pany was appar­ently will­ing to sink to to cut costs and raise prof­its at the expense of their con­sumers.

“Wei Chuan started to con­tract Ting Hsin Oil and Fat in 2007 to pur­chase tainted oil that con­tains copper chloro­phyll from Chang Chi Foodstuff Factory Co. and then pack­aged it for (sale),” pros­e­cu­tors said.

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“After news of the sub­stan­dard oil sur­faced, Wei Chuan tried to cover it up by prepar­ing false oil inspec­tion reports,” they added.

Lawyers for the defen­dants say they will appeal the rul­ings, though for the most part, the cur­rent sen­tences may be reduced or event fore­gone in lieu of mon­e­tary dis­pen­sa­tion.