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Prosecution probing alleged cover-up of bird flu case

Prosecution probing alleged cover-up of bird flu case

Taipei, March 5 (CNA) Prosecutors have launched a probe into an alleged cover-up by quarantine officials of recent outbreaks of avian flu in central and southern Taiwan, the Taipei District Prosecutors Office said Monday. Prosecutors are examining some official files belonging to the Council of Agriculture's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, and has questioned a bureau official to understand how the quarantine officials handled a tip-off by independent film producer Li Hui-ren over the alleged cover-up of bird flu outbreaks in the country. Li, whose documentary titled "A Secret that Cannot Be Poked At" is a comprehensive record of bird flu outbreaks in central and southern Taiwan chicken farms from 2006 on, has accused the COA of trying to cover up the incidents. Last December, he asked the Taipei District Prosecutors Office to investigate bureau Director General Hsu Tien-lai, Yang Wen-yuan, a section chief and two other quarantine officials for dereliction of duty, document forgery and negligence. Hsu tendered his resignation Sunday, which was accepted. The prosecution pointed out that a probe into alleged wrongdoing by quarantine officials was launched in January, when the city's field office was asked to look into the case. In the meantime, Li was also called in to give testimony. The COA has denied covering up bird flu outbreaks and said it followed standard procedure in handling the recent H5N2 outbreaks. The COA confirmed March 3 an outbreak of H5N2, which has led to 57,500 chickens being culled in southern Taiwan's Tainan and central Taiwan's Changhua areas. Huang Kwo-ching, deputy director general of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, rebutted Li's accusation, saying that the council needed to await the results of lab tests and weigh other factors before making any announcements. Huang said the council carried out an inspection and ran tests after learning that an egg farm in Changhua had reported an outbreak Dec. 27 last year. Wang Cheng-teng, a deputy minister of agriculture, said Hsu tendered his resignation because the bureau's handling of the outbreaks caused unease among the public. Wang declined to comment on whether bureau officials are involved in covering up the bird flu cases, saying that no conclusions could yet be reached and that "we'll see what kind of evidence can be produced" to prove them guilty. He noted that the Control Yuan, the branch of government charged with impeaching wayward or law-breaking officials, is also investigating the alleged cover-up. (By Lee Hsiang-chun and S.C. Chang)


Updated : 2021-05-16 02:43 GMT+08:00