China / Society

Court hears the dirt in gutter oil testimony

By Wang Zhenghua in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2012-08-23 02:20

The first of three trials began on Wednesday in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, against a group of 20 people on charges of illegally processing recycled cooking oil and selling it.

The case is considered the largest in China involving the underground business of gutter oil, according to prosecutors. The accused made up to 99 million yuan ($15.5 million) in illegal income from December 2007 until they were seized by the police.

The first group of seven suspects was put on trial at the Ningbo Intermediate People's Court on Wednesday. They are accused of processing gutter oil into cooking oil, which prosecutors said still contained toxic substances.

The court did not announce a verdict on Wednesday and the trial will continue on Thursday.

On Friday, another two accused will stand trial, and the last group of 11 suspected of selling the recycled cooking oil will stand trial on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The entire chain was cracked in August 2011. Local police uncovered a small gutter oil processing workshop in Ningbo's Ninghai county and traced its origin to the Ji'nan Green Bio Oil Co in Shandong province, a major site for recycling gutter oil owned by Liu Liguo, who is accused of running the chain.

Some of the recycled oil was sold to two cooking oil producers in Henan province, and then the two companies mixed the oil with normal bean oil before selling it. They gained 350 million yuan in the dirty business, prosecutors said.

From December 2007, Liu began to refine the waste cooking oil collected from across China and sell it to cooking oil producers, according to prosecutors, though he was quite aware that the oil he collected was not suitable for reuse.

Since then, Liu employed the six other defendants who appeared at the court on Wednesday, most of them his relatives, to assume roles ranging from drivers to factory supervisors at his companies.

The defendants' lawyers could not be reached on Wednesday. But according to a court press release, Liu told the judge that he had meant to develop a biodiesel business but encountered difficulties in sales. That made him plunge into the gutter oil business.

Liu said his products were mainly sold to oil producers in Shandong, Henan, Hebei and Shaanxi provinces, according to prosecutors.

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