Drug firm executives granted bail in Wellslim probe
The China Post news staffTAIPEI, Taiwan -- Three executives from two biotechnology firms have been released after posting bail in an investigation into the use of an unapproved substance in a health supplement product endorsed by former Vice President Lien Chan's daughter, prosecutors in Taipei said yesterday.
October 27, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Huang Chen-kang, head of the Wellcare Pharmaceutical Co., and Yeh Mu-keng, head of the firm's research and development department, posted bonds of NT$3 million and NT$2 million, respectively, after being questioned late Friday night, prosecutors said.
Tseng Hsin-yi, general manager of Geneherbs, was granted NT$2 million bail.
Wellcare developed the product, Wellslim Plus, that Geneherbs marketed as a health supplement that enhanced weight loss.
Health authorities started a probe after determining that Wellslim Plus contains cetilistat, an obesity treatment drug that has not yet been approved for use in Taiwan.
Lien Chan's daughter, Hui-hsin, who has served as the product's spokeswoman, maintained in a statement released through her attorney that she was unaware of the product's content and played no role in the management of Geneherbs.
But media reports cited sources with investigators as alleging that Lien Hui-hsin co-founded Geneherbs with Tseng, and is its biggest shareholder and president.
Prosecutors said they will interview Lien Hui-hsin later this week to determine her role in the case.
Meanwhile, Legislator Lee Ying-yuan and Taipei City Councilor Juan Chao-hsiung produced what they called proof that the junior Lien was the actual boss of Geneherbs.
Lee and Juan — both of them from the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party — cited media reports from 2011 saying that she was the biggest shareholder of the company. She was also portrayed as president of the company in interviews with the media, they said.
Sources said Geneherbs was founded on a capital of NT$15 million, with Hui-hsin contributing two thirds of the funds.
Geneherbs started selling Wellslim Plus in May 2008 at NT$2,980 per package of 30 capsules, the sources said, adding the manufacturing cost of each capsule was only NT$20.
Geneherbs' general manager said the product was developed by Wellcare and her company knew nothing about unapproved substances being added, according to the sources.
Wellcare's Huang said the materials for the product had been imported from Canada and he did not know the formula of the supplement designed by the R&D chief, Yeh.
A total of seven people — including the head of a company contracted to make the Wellslim Plus capsules for Geneherbs, were questioned Friday night, prosecutors said, adding that all have been released.