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September 19, 2009

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Tainted-powder seller changes plea

A MAN jailed for two years for selling one ton of melamine-contaminated milk powder he collected from a rural dumping yard last year yesterday launched an appeal and changed his plea to not guilty.

The Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court is hearing the case and has yet to reach a verdict.

The tainted milk powder, produced by Bright Dairy Co Ltd, was due to be destroyed but was left unattended at the dumping ground last December. Duan Tongming, 39, took away a truckload of the powder and sold it to an illegal milk producer for 11,000 yuan (US$1,610).

Last month Duan was imprisoned for two years by the Pudong New Area People's Court for making illegal gains from selling poisonous and harmful food.

At yesterday's hearing he claimed that he didn't know the powder contained the poisonous ingredient as there were no warning signs or guards on the site.

"I was just seeking to make a profit," Duan said. "I had no idea that it contained melamine and I didn't intend to sell poisonous food."

Duan said that he just followed his neighbors, who had all fetched bags of the dumped milk powder.

He sold the powder to an illegal milk producer, Zhao Hong, without informing Zhao of its source.

Zhao was seized by the Pudong New Area Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision in April.

Police nabbed Duan through the information provided by Zhao.

Duan said he had been cooperative and admitted guilt in the first court hearing in the hope of receiving a light sentence.

"I was told that I had just committed a small crime," he told the court yesterday. "If I confessed, I was told I would get no more than six months' jail, probably with probation."

The dumped powder was found to contain excessive amounts of melamine in the national milk scandal. It had been pulled off the shelves and was meant to be crushed, burned and buried in the dumping yard.

Duan said, as "proof of his innocence," that he and his wife and their four children had all consumed the milk powder from the dump site.

Duan said he had little knowledge of the melamine scandal and the law, considering his poor education.

"His behavior showed that he knew it was poisonous," prosecutors said. "He didn't inform Zhao of the milk source because he knew it was bad."

The prosecutors said the milk producer didn't set up guards on the site as it did not believe anyone would take advantage of the waste.

They also said that Duan did not have to be well-educated to know that the milk was poisonous. "How can an ordinary man not think about why so much milk powder was being destroyed?" prosecutors asked.


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