Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office, Taiwan. Photo: Google Maps

A factory owner and his manager who were responsible for a fire that claimed the lives of six Vietnamese migrant workers in Taiwan have had their case deferred after reaching agreements with the families of the victims.

The owner and manager were found to be responsible for the December 2017 workplace fire that killed the six Vietnamese workers, but their case was deferred by the prosecution on Tuesday after agreements with the victims’ families had been reached.

A Taiwanese man surnamed Chen, 49, the owner of Sican Co, Ltd, which manufactured specialized window film, and a 48-year-old man surnamed Hsieh, the factory manager, both were found to have contributed to the negligent death of the company’s foreign workers, according to a 16-month investigation by the Taiwan Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office, which issued a news release on May 7, 2019.

Chen and Hsieh were found to have violated Article 276, Section 2, of Taiwan’s Criminal Code, as well as Article 91, Section 2, and Article 77, Section 1, of the Building Act.

An investigation showed that the two-story structure was illegally built and made of galvanized iron sheets. The first floor was used as a warehouse, while the second story was used as a dormitory and housed 12 Vietnamese migrant workers.

On December 14, 2017, a fire started in the living room on the workers’ floor, which was later found to have been caused by electric short circuits in electric appliances, and because the building was made of extremely flammable iron sheets, the blaze became a fatal one and engulfed the entire structure very quickly.

Chen and Hsieh not only put the lives of the migrant workers in danger by making them live in the illegal structure, but they also failed to conduct any regular electricity checks or erect any fire safety measures in the building.

However, the pair both had their prosecution deferred for two years because of a number of factors – both had been cooperative in the investigation and paid compensation to the families of the victims. Most importantly, the victims’ families and complainants all agreed to the decision.

The Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office would not move forward with involuntary manslaughter charges against Hsieh the factory manager, who agreed to pay NT$600,000 (US$19,397) to state coffers, or Chen the owner, who will pay NT$800,000 (US$25,863).

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