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ASE and 5 officials indicted, but not chairman
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-01-03 03:54 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Prosecutors indicted Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. and five company officials Friday for pollution by a Kaohsiung factory, but company chairman Jason Chang escaped charges.

Factory department chief Su Ping-shuo, who has been detained, was the highest-level ASE official charged after its K7 plant released an estimated 5,194 tons of wastewater contaminated with heavy metals into the Houjing Creek last October 1. The incident touched off major concerns about rice and other foodstuffs grown in the area, while the company was accused of trying to mislead inspectors. ASE is the world’s biggest chip tester and packager, with 17 factories concentrated in the Kaohsiung area.

The city’s Environmental Protection Bureau fined ASE the maximum amount of NT$600,000 (US$20,000) and ordered relevant operations at the K7 factory to be halted from December 20. The application process to resume work was expected to take months, reports said.

In addition to Su, the ASE officials indicted were wastewater department chief Tsai Chi-hsun and engineers Ho Teng-yang, Liu Wei-cheng and Yu Chih-hsien, reports said. They were charged with releasing toxic materials, while the company as a whole was indicted for violating regulations pertaining to the treatment of waste.

Chang and company vice president Lin Hsien-tang were not charged because there was no evidence they knew about the discharges beforehand, reports said. Prosecutors ruled that the unauthorized discharge of wastewater through a hidden pipeline into the sea was an administrative violation which should be fined by the EPB.

The case began when inspectors detected unusually high levels of nickel and other heavy metals in the Houjing Creek, which is used to irrigate nearby farmland and rice paddies. A search for the origin of the pollution ended at ASE’s K7 factory in a nearby industrial zone.

When inspectors visited the factory, they were reportedly presented with samples which had been diluted with tap water in an apparent effort to mislead them about the level of pollution. The company argued that the toxic discharged had been the result of a one-off mishap and would not happen again.

The EPB referred the case to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office, which completed its investigation within 25 days. Chang, chief operating officer Tien Wu and Kaohsiung general manager Raymond Lo were summoned for questioning on December 27 but released the same day.

The K7 case led to closer looks by environmental authorities at ASE’s other factories in Kaohsiung and in Chungli, Taoyuan County, amid accusations of more secret pipelines and pollution violations.

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