The former chairwoman and general manager of Sanlu Group, the dairy at the centre of China's melamine-tainted milk scandal, was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for producing and selling fake or substandard products.
Tian Wenhua, the former chairwoman and general manager of Sanlu Group, stands trial on December 31, 2008. [Xinhua]
The 66-year-old Tian Wenhua was sentenced at the Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei province. Life imprisonment is the maximum punishment for such a charge.
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 respectively sentenced to 15 years and eight years in prison. 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 became the first one to get death penalty as the court began announcing sentences for 21 defendants implicated in the scandal at 2:00 p.m.
The court said that from October 2007 to August 2008, Zhang Yujun produced 775.6 tons of "protein powder" that contained the toxic chemical of melamine, and sold more than 600 tons of it with a total value of 6.83 million yuan ($998,000).
He sold 230 tons of the "protein powder" to Zhang Yanzhang, who will stay behind bars for the rest of his life under the same charge.
During the trial, prosecutors said both Zhangs was "fully aware of the harm of melamine" while they produced and sold the chemical, and "should be charged for endangering the public security."
The powder was then resold to private milk collectors in Shijiazhuang, Tangshan, Xingtai and Zhangjiakou in Hebei, and some collectors added it to raw milk to make it appear to have a higher protein content in nutrition tests.
The milk was then sold to Shijiazhuang-based Sanlu Group, and was used to produce baby formula that killed six infants and caused kidney problems for 290,000 others, according to figures from the Ministry of Health.