Wei Ying chung was sentenced to a four-year prison term in Taiwan for olive oil fraud.

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.

“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.

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