January 22, 2009
 
Former Sanlu executive gets life; two others sentenced to death over melamine scandal
 
 

A Chinese court has sentenced to life the former executive of Sanlu Group while two men are meted with death verdict at the center of China's contaminated milk scandal.

 
The Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang handed the sentence Thursday (January 22) to Tian Wenhua. Tian was the former general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu and pleaded guilty to charges of producing and selling fake or substandard products during the trial in late December.
 
Three other former top Sanlu executives were given jail terms of between five years and 15 years. Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi, both former deputy general managers of Sanlu, were sentenced to 15 years and eight years in prison respectively. Wu Jusheng, former manager of the firm's raw milk department, will stay behind bars for five years.
 
Two other defendants in the trial were given death sentences and another one received death sentence with probation.
 
Zhang Yujun was the first one to get death penalty. At press time, the other man receiving the death penalty has not yet been identified.
 
The court said that from October 2007 to August 2008, Zhang Yujun produced 775.6 tonnes of "protein powder" that contained the toxic chemical melamine, and sold more than 600 tonnes worth RMB6.83 million (US$998,000).
 
Zhang Yanzhang, who bought 230 tonnes of the "protein powder" from Zhang Yujun, will stay behind bars for the rest of his life under the same charge.
 
During the trial, prosecutors said both of them were "fully aware of the harm of melamine" while they produced and sold the chemical, and "should be charged for endangering the public security."
 
Sanlu was the first and largest dairy producer found to have sold dairy products containing melamine, a chemical used to make plastics which was mixed into watered-down milk to give the appearance of higher protein levels.
 
In December, the Chinese government ordered the dairy firms to pay US$160 million in compensation to the families of babies that died or fell ill.
 
However, the families criticised the sum as ''woefully inadequate'', as some parents of the victims did not receive the damages and others receiving just US$300.
 
Over 200 families last week filed a suit with the Supreme Court, seeking more compensation, citing that the government-ordered payment ''failed to recognise them as victims.''
 
According to Chang Lin, a farmer from Chongqing City in southwest China, whose 18-month-old son died in August, said he did not receive any compensation as the companies did not acknowledge that his child died from drinking tainted milk.
 
Infant formula tainted with the chemical melamine was blamed in the deaths of at least six babies and the illnesses of nearly 300,000 others in China last year. The melamine contamination added another blow to China for its tarnished reputation globally that has suffered in years due to safety scandals to its wide range of exports-- from toys to pet food and dumplings.
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