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Taiwan prosecutors question ASE subcontractors
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-12-12 06:45 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Kaohsiung prosecutors on Thursday interrogated five business people related to the alleged pollution of the Houjing creek with heavy metals by Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc.

Both local and national authorities threatened further sanctions against the world’s biggest chip tester and packager after having leveled a fine of NT$600,000 (US$20,000). The company also faced an order to stop operations at its K7 plant, though it was not effective immediately.

Prosecutors and inspectors from the Kaohsiung City Environmental Protection Bureau spent Wednesday analyzing samples from various fields and creeks surrounding the factory, and came to the conclusion that questioning was necessary, reports said.

Five officials from different ASE subcontractors were seen walking into the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office Thursday morning, including one carrying a bag with documents, reports said.

They were allowed to leave during the afternoon after providing valuable information during two hours of talks, prosecutors said. The investigators reportedly wanted to gain a better understanding of how the discharging of wastewater worked to be able to determine whether the ASE pollution case was accidental or intentional.

The central government’s Environmental Protection Administration meanwhile was helping Kaohsiung’s EPB on a plan to demand payments back from the electronics company. Because similar demands in the past had met with companies moving their assets out of reach of the authorities, the EPA was working on a plan to ask the courts for the permission to seize ASE’s assets, reports said.

The company might have to return illegally made profits going back to January 2007, when businesses became bound by law to report information about the discharge of wastewater. The EPA said it would investigate whether the chip giant had made any misleading reports during that period.

EPA Minister Stephen Shen rejected claims that the discharge of nickel and other heavy metals into the Houjing creek had been the result of a mishap, as the company claimed.

The EPB found the presence of hidden pipelines between the factory and the river, showing that the problem was not caused by sheer coincidence, he said. Whether the pollution was an accident or part of a long-term practice, fines had to be leveled against the polluter, the minister said.

EPB Director Chen Chin-der reiterated accusations against ASE that the company had deliberately tried to mislead inspectors. When tests were made to try and determine whether the nickel pollution originated at the K7 plant, company officials reportedly added tap water to reduce toxicity ahead of the inspection.

Another ASE plant in Kaohsiung, known as K11, contained unreported installations which allowed the factory to release wastewater without knowledge of the authorities, Chen said.

ASE should apologize to the public and explain what had happened, while it should also prepare for the suspension of operations at its K7 plant, according to Chen.

The company blamed a technical problem for the pollution and promised it would not happen again.

Water from the Houjing creek was widely used to irrigate farmland and rice fields nearby, while oyster farmers and fishermen protested Thursday morning that pollution was causing them to have move out to sea by 19 kilometers in order to be able to net clean seafood.

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