China dairy executive appeals life sentence in contaminated milk scandal

China dairy executive appeals life sentence in contaminated milk scandal

[JURIST] Former Sanlu Group [Research and Markets profile] chairwoman Tian Wenhua [Xinhua profile] on Sunday appealed the life sentence [JURIST report] she received after pleading guilty [JURIST report] to charges in China's tainted milk scandal [JURIST news archive]. Tian's lawyer claims it was not his client who decided to sell milk with higher levels of melamine [FDA backgrounder], but a board member tabbed by New Zealand dairy firm Fonterra, which held a large share in Sanlu Group. Tian's appeal to the Higher People's Court of Hebei Province asserts that the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court lacked evidence to support a conviction [Xinhua report] for manufacturing and selling fake or substandard products.

In December 2008, a court ordered at-fault dairy companies to pay $160 million [JURIST report] in compensation to the victims' families. In January, lawyers for the families of 213 Chinese children sickened or killed by the contaminated milk petitioned [JURIST report] the Supreme People's Court [official website, in Mandarin], China's highest court, to hear a class action lawsuit against 22 dairy companies involved in the contamination, seeking more than $5 million in damages. Early last month, police in China detained five parents [JURIST report] of children who became sick after drinking melamine-tainted milk, preventing the parents from participating in a news conference.