LCY Group Chairman Lee Bowei, as well as 11 others, have been indicted for the propylene gas explosions that killed 32 and injured 321 in July in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Lee also has resigned as CEO on Dec. 23.
The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office (KDPO) said in a Dec. 18 statement that it indicted Lee and five other LCY employees, three workers of gas pipeline operator China General Terminal and Distribution Corp. (CGTD), as well as three former local government employees, over multiple criminal charges.
KDPO's four-plus-month-long investigation concluded that the root of the tragedy can be traced back to the 1991, when a local government agency failed to transfer three pipelines, including the one that eventually caused the explosion this summer, but instead built a drainage culvert around them. Moist air slowly eroded the pipelines over the next two decades.
After LCY took over Taiwan Polypropylene in 2007 and acquired the ownership of the pipeline, KDPO said, LCY failed to conduct inspection and maintenance and ignored the situation.
On the night of July 31, even after CGTD detected a leak, KDPO said, LCY insisted CGTD continue to transport the highly flammable propylene gas to its Dashe plant.
Leaked gas traveled through drainage pipes and ignited one of the most massive and destructive explosions in Taiwan history.
Post-disaster investigation showed the pipeline had been eroded to only 14.1 percent of its original thickness.
On Dec. 22, publicly traded LCY Chemical Corp. confirmed the indictment of Lee and employees, but noted the company's operation remains normal and foresaw no major impact on its financials.
However, according to a China Times report, LCY's Dashe plant has not resumed PP production since Aug. 2. The report estimated a loss of NT$6 billion (US$188.7 million), excluding salaries that have been continuously paid to the plant workers.
On Dec. 23, LCY announced that Lee, a MIT and Stanford graduate, resigned as CEO. But the company clarified that the resignation was a long-mulled decision to better manage the company with a new operation committee. The CEO position has been eliminated and Lee will not be replaced.