Verdicts in the tainted milk scandal were upheld for nine people yesterday, including three sentenced to death and a sentence of life imprisonment for Sanlu ex-boss Tian Wenhua.
The Hebei Higher People's Court decided to keep Tian in jail for the rest of her life after she was convicted of producing and selling fake and substandard products and for her failure to stop selling the products after knowing they were contaminated last summer.
Evidence in the first trial on Jan 22 suggested that the dairy giant bent under pressure from local government officials and covered up the news before the Beijing Olympics.
The court kept the death sentence for Geng Jinping, and the eight-year prison term for Geng's sister Geng Jinzhu. Both were charged with producing and selling toxic melamine-tainted milk to dairy companies, including Sanlu.
The court also upheld the death sentence for Zhang Yujun and life imprisonment for Zhang Yanzhang, for endangering public security by producing and selling the melamine-tainted milk.
The court also upheld the sentence for Gao Junjie, who supplied the melamine-laced formula, of the death penalty, suspended for two years.
Tian's lawyers said they were not given any notice yesterday.
"Things just happen too fast," Liu Xinwei, one of the two lawyers representing Tian, told China Daily last night, adding that he heard the news from other sources instead of by court announcement.
The lawyer said earlier on Wednesday that the court should review the appeal evidence on a given day if no open trial is arranged upon notifying the lawyer.
Without holding an open trial yesterday, 66-year-old Tian's fate also includes the deprivation of her political rights and a colossal fine of 24.68 million yuan ($3.6 million).
Three of Tian's former senior executives - Wang Yuliang, Hang Zhiqi and Wu Jusheng, were also sentenced to terms of between five and 15 years, plus huge fines.
The trial, in a small courtroom borrowed from the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court, lasted for hours, and was witnessed by about 40 listeners, said a lawyer who refused to be named.
"The issue is quite sensitive to discuss right now," said the lawyer yesterday afternoon via phone.
In other developments, the Hebei disciplinary and supervision agencies rolled out punishment for 14 senior officials and 10 minor officials for their involvement in the milk scandal.
Ji Chuntang, the former mayor of Shijiazhuang, who was removed from his post after the scandal broke, was officially stripped of his position in the Communist Party of China. Two deputy mayors of Shijiazhuang were also demoted.