4 executives of China milk scandal company stand trial
www.chinaview.cn 2008-12-31 08:40:59   Print

 A policeman stands in front of the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province, on Dec. 31, 2008. Four executives of the Sanlu Group, the major dairy at the center of China's tainted milk scandal, went on trial at the court on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Wang Min)

A policeman stands in front of the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province, on Dec. 31, 2008. Four executives of the Sanlu Group, the major dairy at the center of China's tainted milk scandal, went on trial at the court on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Wang Min)
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    SHIJIAZHUANG, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Four executives of the Sanlu Group, the major dairy at the center of China's tainted milk scandal, went on trial Wednesday at a court in Shijiazhuang, capital of northern Hebei Province.

    The Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court accused Tian Wenhua, Sanlu's former board chairwoman and general manager and three other executives of producing and selling fake or sub-standard products. Sanlu Group Co., Ltd, represented by its trade union chairman Ran Weiguang, was also a defendant.

    The court opened at 8 a.m. The three other executives are former deputy general managers Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi, and WuJusheng, a former executive in charge of the firm's milk source division. The four defendants were arrested on Sept. 26.

    Outside the court were some parents of children sickened by the tainted milk.

    "I believe the court will try and sentence the suspects in accordance with law to give hundreds of thousands of sickened children a satisfactory answer and make them properly compensated," said Zhou Jing, a father from central Hunan Province whose baby was a victim of the contamination.

    In December 2007, Sanlu began to receive consumer reports that some babies showed symptoms such as having red sediment in their urine after drinking baby formula the company produced, prosecutors said. But the group's customer service department did not report the complaints to top executives such as Tian and Wang until May 17 in written form.

    The company sent samples to a Hebei provincial inspection and quarantine center for examination on July 24. The results, which came out on Aug. 1, showed most of the samples contained melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics.

    From Aug. 2 to Sept. 12, Sanlu Group produced 904 tonnes of melamine-tainted baby formula powder and sold 813 tonnes of the tainted products, making 47.5 million yuan (6.9 million U.S. dollars).

    Tian, 66, pleaded guilty to the charges against her.

Tian Wenhua, Sanlu's former board chairwoman and general manager, stands on trial on the court, in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, Dec. 31, 2008. Four executives of the Sanlu Group, the major dairy at the center of China's tainted milk scandal, went on trial Wednesday at the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court. The court accused Tian Wenhua, and three other executives of producing and selling fake or sub-standard products. The court opened at 8 a.m. The three other executives are former deputy general managers Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi, and Wu Jusheng, a former executive in charge of the firm's milk division. If convicted of producing and selling fake or substandard products, defendants can be imprisoned for terms up to life.

Tian Wenhua, Sanlu's former board chairwoman and general manager, stands on trial on the court, in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, Dec. 31, 2008. Four executives of the Sanlu Group, the major dairy at the center of China's tainted milk scandal, went on trial Wednesday at the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court. The court accused Tian Wenhua, and three other executives of producing and selling fake or sub-standard products. The court opened at 8 a.m. The three other executives are former deputy general managers Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi, and Wu Jusheng, a former executive in charge of the firm's milk division. If convicted of producing and selling fake or substandard products, defendants can be imprisoned for terms up to life.(Xinhua/Ding Lixin)
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    She told the court that she learned about the tainted milk complaints from consumers in mid-May, and then the company set up a working team led by her to handle the case.

    Sanlu Group submitted a written report about the problematic milk powder to the Shijiazhuang city government on Aug. 2, she said.

    Tian told the court after the exposure of Sanlu's milk quality problem, a foreign director of the group showed her a European melamine level standard that allowed 20 milligrams of melamine per kilogram of raw milk.

    She had no doubt about the standard and therefore did not ban melamine in its milk products afterwards.

    Some Sanlu products were found to have the highest content of melamine, at 2,563 milligrams per kilogram in tests conducted in September.

    Another defendant Wang, in a wheelchair after losing the use of his legs in a suicide attempt, sobbed when speaking in court.

    Wang said he felt extremely sorry for the great pain that the tainted milk had brought to the sickened children and their families.

    Milk dealers were accused of mixing the melamine or "protein powder" to diluted milk to make it appear high in protein content.

    The scandal was widely exposed to the public in early September. Other major dairies were also found to have the chemical-tainted products.

    The Ministry of Health has said it was likely the contamination killed at least six babies. Another 294,000 infants suffered from urinary problems such as kidney stones.

    Sanlu Group, partly owned by New Zealand dairy product giant Fonterra, stopped production on Sept. 12. A bankruptcy petition for Sanlu has been filed in the face of a 1.1 billion yuan debt.

    Prior to the trial of these four, 17 people have gone on trial on charges of producing, adding melamine-laced "protein powder" to milk or selling the tainted milk to Sanlu or other dairies. No verdicts have been announced yet.

    If convicted of producing and selling fake or substandard products, defendants can be imprisoned for terms up to life.

    The melamine not only made dairy giant Sanlu bankrupt, but also caused many milk farmers to suffer heavy losses, said a farmer. "Those dealers who produced and added the poisonous chemical to milk should be harshly punished," he said.

    "As the scandal has victims across the country, these trials will tell people what the truth is and who should be punished," said He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University, in a telephone interview with Xinhua.

    "In fact, what needs review should include not only the crime of individuals or an enterprise, but also the whole enterprise system so as to make managerial staff attach more importance to product quality and long-term development," he said.

    "More important, the trials provide an opportunity to find problems and improve product quality and push forward the promulgation of relevant industry laws," said the professor.

    The scandal led to the resignation of China's chief quality supervisor Li Changjiang. Several officials in Shijiazhuang were also fired.

    More than 8,000 tonnes of unqualified milk products were recalled as of the end of October across the country.

    On Dec. 19, Sanlu Group borrowed 902 million yuan to pay the medical fees of children sickened by its melamine-tainted baby formula and to compensate the victims.

    Victims who fell ill or died after drinking tainted baby formula will soon get financial compensation from 22 Chinese dairy producers including Sanlu, which had sold melamine-tainted products, the country's Dairy Industry Association announced Saturday.

    According to a letter sent to victims and their families by the 22 companies, children who were sickened would get 2,000 yuan while children in serious cases including those suffering from acute kidney failure would be paid 30,000 yuan. The families whose kids have died of tainted milk powder could each receive 200,000 yuan.

    Parents of victims who do not accept the one-off compensation are asked to sign a document to state that they give up the compensation. They can seek compensation through lawsuits.

    The dairy producers also set up a fund to pay for medical costs of the sickened until they reach 18.

The four indictees Tian Wenhua, Wang Yuliang, Hang Zhiqi, Wu Jusheng (L to R) stand on trial on the court, in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, Dec. 31, 2008. The Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court accused Tian Wenhua, and three other executives of producing and selling fake or sub-standard products. The court opened at 8 a.m. The four executives are Sanlu's former board chairwoman and general manager Tian Wenhua, former deputy general managers Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi, and Wu Jusheng, a former executive in charge of the firm's milk division. If convicted of producing and selling fake or substandard products, defendants can be imprisoned for terms up to life.

The four indictees Tian Wenhua, Wang Yuliang, Hang Zhiqi, Wu Jusheng (L to R) stand on trial on the court, in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, Dec. 31, 2008. The Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court accused Tian Wenhua, and three other executives of producing and selling fake or sub-standard products. The court opened at 8 a.m. The four executives are Sanlu's former board chairwoman and general manager Tian Wenhua, former deputy general managers Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi, and Wu Jusheng, a former executive in charge of the firm's milk division. If convicted of producing and selling fake or substandard products, defendants can be imprisoned for terms up to life. (Xinhua/Ding Lixin)Photo Gallery>>>

Editor: Zheng
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