Taiwan Food Scandal Forces Taipei 101 Executive Out of Post

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The chairman of the Taiwanese foodmaker tarnished by an edible-oil scandal resigned from his management positions at the operator of the island’s tallest skyscraper under government pressure.

Wei Ying-chiao, one of four brothers at the helm of Ting Hsin International Group, stepped down yesterday as vice chairman and president of Taipei Financial Center Corp., which operates Taipei 101, home of the city’s stock exchange.

His ouster, announced by the finance ministry yesterday, illustrates the widening fallout after Ting Hsin group companies came under investigation for allegedly making lard and beef tallow adulterated with animal feed oils. The scandal has led to the prosecution of Wei’s brother, Yin-chun, who was chairman of three of the involved companies including Taipei-listed Wei Chuan Foods Corp., and prompted Japan and China to ban imports of Taiwan food products.

“Their tainted oil has affected the food processing industry,” Wang To-far, professor of economics at National Taipei University, said yesterday by phone. “It hurts the Taiwan brand and the image of Taiwan.”

Wei’s resignation took effect immediately, Deputy Finance Minister Wu Tang-chieh announced yesterday. Board Chairman Christina Sung will act as president before the board names a replacement. Wei “has heard and respects the voice of the public,” Ting Hsin said in a statement after the decision without elaborating further.

‘Marred Image’

The finance ministry said it asked government-backed shareholders of Taipei Financial to address the food scandal issue at a board meeting yesterday, Wu said by phone today.

“Some board members told Wei that Ting Hsin group’s recent food incidents have marred the image of Taipei 101, undermined consumer sentiment and the willingness of banks to extend loans,” Wu said. “Those board members asked Wei to leave his post to protect Taiwan’s image and help the sustainability of the company.”

The Wei family holds about 37 percent of Taipei Financial Center, while about 44 percent is controlled by Mega Financial Holding Co. and other companies in which government has stakes, according to a 2013 financial report.

The family’s companies have been hit by three food safety scandals in a year. The discovery of tainted beef tallow in products being sold by companies including Wei Chuan this month followed contaminated lard found in Ting Hsin products in September. Last year, Wei Chuan sold olive oil with copper chlorophyll added to improve color in violation of food laws.

Heavier Fines

The government announced measures to deal with food incidents and boost food safety, including heavier fines, larger cash rewards for whistle-blowers, separate import processes for animal feed and greater oversight over recycled edible oil. Six countries and areas have banned imports of Taiwan food products, including China and Japan, according to the island’s Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Wei Chuan shares rose 2.5 percent today. The stock has tumbled 53 percent since the beginning of the year, compared with a 3.4 percent gain in the island’s benchmark Taiex index. Fellow Ting Hsin company, Hong Kong-listed Tingyi (Cayman Islands) Holding Corp., has dropped 15 percent, compared with a 2.2 percent rise in the city’s Hang Seng Index.