The head of a leading Taiwanese cooking oil company was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Monday after being convicted on fraud and mislabelling charges in one of the biggest food scandals to rock the island.
Kao Chen-li, chairman of the Changchi Foodstuff Factory in Changhua, central Taiwan, was meted out the punishment by the county district court after being caught adulterating olive oil for illegal profit.
Television images showed Kao, who did not attend the court, being handcuffed and taken away by police as he reported to authorities as part of the investigation into the scandal.
“The defendant had cheated consumers and reaped huge benefits by adulterating oil products,” the Changhua district court said in a statement.
“Even worse, he had added copper chlorophyllin and cotton seed oil, causing unrest among the public,” it said.
The company was also fined NT$50 million (HK$13 million).
Kao’s lawyer told reporters that he would appeal.
The Changchi food scandal surfaced in the middle of October, after it was found to have adulterated olive oil with cheap cottonseed oil and the banned colouring agent for years.
Prosecutors in Changhua in October indicted Kao on charges of violating food safety laws and making huge illegal profits through false labelling.
The local government also had slapped a record fine of NT$1.85 billion on Kao.
Further investigation of the case by prosecutors found that the tainted oil products manufactured by Kao had also been supplied to other major cooking oil retailers in Taiwan.
Among them was Wei Chuan Foods, the Taiwanese unit of Ting Hsin International Group, which owns the Master Kong instant noodle brand.
Wei Yin-chun, chairman of Wei Chuan, was released on bail last month following an overnight interrogation on suspicion of fraud and violating food safety laws.
Wei has insisted that his company was unaware when it purchased oil purchased from Changchi that it contained the banned colouring agent copper chlorophyllin.