Prosecutors on Friday asked for a court's permission to detain the head of a plant of Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE) in connection with the factory's release of untreated industrial wastewater into a creek.
Prosecutors sought the detention of Su Ping-shou, head of ASE's K7 plant in Kaohsiung, after questioning Su and two other senior company officials earlier in the day.
They did not seek permission to detain the two other senior officials questioned, including a manager surnamed Yen, who was released after questioning, and Tsai Chi-hsun, a section chief in charge of wastewater, who was ordered to be released pending a NT$1 million (US$33,772) bail.
The court has not decided whether to allow prosecutors to detain Su.
Meanwhile, the Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau said Friday that it could shut down the plant as early as Dec. 21.
The bureau said it asked the plant to suspend operations on Dec. 9 because it was involved in releasing untreated industrial wastewater into a creek. The water from the creek is used to irrigate hundreds of hectares of farmland downstream, mostly paddy fields.
The bureau said the plant had also falsified discharge data related to pH value, chemical oxygen demand, and suspended solids to avoid punishment.
But the bureau has given the plant a 10-day grace period to allow it to present its views and explanations by Dec. 19. If they are not accepted after the review, the plant will be ordered to suspend operations on Dec. 21.
Also on Friday, the bureau found secret pipelines under the K7 plant site that may have been used to discharge the wastewater, officials said.
The bureau also said it would ask the ASE to return illegal gains it made in not treating the wastewater, which are estimated to reach around NT$100 million.
On Friday, the ASE would not respond to questions involving the return of illegal gains, and only said that it would communicate with the bureau on a plan to correct the problem.
Meanwhile, business groups called for proper treatment of the case in accordance with the law.
The calls came after angry legislators demanded that the government should ask the ASE to return the nearly NT$3 billion in tax incentives it has enjoyed over the years.
Both Chang Pen-tsao, chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China, and Tsai Lien-sheng, secretary general of the Chinese National Federation of Industries, said that as Taiwan is a country of law, the government should first check if the ASE has maliciously violated the law and gather the facts.
Whether or not ASE should be fined or ordered to return its tax incentive money is an issue that will have to be dealt with according to the law, they said.
Chang said ASE is the world's largest integrated circuit packaging and testing services provider and the shutdown of its plant will have an impact on an entire industrial chain.
Tsai also said that the ASE has contributed to Taiwan in the past, and if it makes mistakes, it should be dealt with properly, urging the government not to take action before proper legal procedures are followed.
The K7 plant, which employs 5,000 workers, is part of a complex of ASE factories in the southern city's Nanzih industrial district.
It generates monthly revenues of about US$75 million, which amount to over 30 percent of ASE Kaohsiung's total sales per month, according to the ASE group.
ASE Kaohsiung, the group's flagship company, accounts for about 28 percent of the group's total revenue.
SOURCE: Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc.