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A Chinese court yesterday sentenced the chairwoman of Fonterra's joint venture in China, Tian Wenhua, to life in prison for her role in the melamine poisoning scandal.
Two men who supplied melamine to adulterate milk have been sentenced to death, with a total of three life sentences and six sentences ranging from five years' to 15 years' jail for other defendants. About 39 other accused are reportedly still awaiting trial.
Tian (66), who chaired the Shijiazhuang-based Sanlu Group and signed the joint venture deal with Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier in 2005, was the highest-ranking official charged in the food safety scandal.
She will stay behind bars for the rest of her life after her sentence in the Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang for producing and selling fake or substandard products.
She was also fined $NZ6.9 million, the Daily Mail reported.
Sanlu was fined $NZ14 million, even though it has been declared bankrupt.
Tian admitted during her trial to knowing of problems with her company's products for months before informing authorities. The scandal is widely seen as a national disgrace that highlighted corporate and official shortcomings and corruption.
Three other former top Sanlu executives on trial with Tian also charged with producing and selling fake or substandard products were jailed for five to 15 years.
Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi, both former deputy general managers, were respectively sentenced to 15 years and eight years in prison and Wu Jusheng, former manager of the raw milk department, to five years' jail.
A spokesman for Fonterra, which owned 43% of Sanlu, told NZPA it was "still studying the verdict'' and was not in a position to comment.
Two death penalties handed down yesterday included one to a man who manufactured melamine powder and sold it to adulterate milk.
Manufacturer Zhang Yujun (40) was sentenced to death for running the workshop that was allegedly China's largest source of melamine.
A second man, Geng Jinping, was also given the death penalty for producing and selling toxic food. One of the death sentences was reported to be suspended for two years with the potential to be converted into a life sentence.
Milk diluted then adulterated with melamine killed six babies and sickened 296,000 other infants.
Court spokesman Wang Wei said Zhang Yanzhang (24) was sentenced to life imprisonment for endangering public safety after working with Zhang Yujun to buy and resell powder to others. - AP/Reuters