Chinese smuggler gets life in prison | News | DW | 18.05.2012
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Chinese smuggler gets life in prison

The man accused of running China's largest smuggling ring in the 1990s has been sentenced to life in prison following his long battle to avoid extradition from Canada.

The man accused of running China's largest smuggling ring in the 1990s has been sentenced to life in prison following his long battle to avoid extradition from Canada.

China has sentenced the man accused of running the nation's largest smuggling operation to life in prison, bringing to an end a case that involved 12 years of fighting against extradition from Canada and his final repatriation last year.

Lai Changxing, 53, was jailed by a court in Xiamen, a coastal city in east China, where he was accused of running a mult-billion-dollar smuggling ring in the 1990s that was protected by senior officials who were paid off.

Tough example

"The crimes involve massive sums and particularly serious circumstances," the court said, according to a report from China's official Xinhua press agency. "The Chinese government's determination to attack crime and root out corruption is unwavering."

The court found that from 1991, Lai "established companies, strongholds and networks in Hong Kong and Xiamen to form a smuggling clique" that cheated customs inspectors to import cigarettes, cars, oil products and various other products worth a total of $4.3 billion (3.4 billion euros).

Lai was convicted bribed 64 officials with cash and gifts of real estate and vehicles, and he evaded taxes.

The conviction is being held up as an example of the Communist Party’s determination to fight corruption.

Long legal battle

Lai and his family fled to Canada in 1999, where he claimed to be a refugee. He said the charges against him were politically motivated and that he could face death if returned to China. The case became a contentious point between Canada and China.

After years of legal battles, a Canadian court in July 2011 decided to send Lai back to China. Normally Canada does not repatriate prisoners to countries where they may face the death penalty, but China promised in this case that the accused would not be tortured or executed.

Instead, Lai faces life behind bars. The court has also seized Lai's personal assets as part of the conviction.

Lai can appeal the conviction and sentence.

tm/mz (dpa, Reuters)