SAR gang sentenced to death in mainland's biggest smuggling case
Four Hong Kong residents have been sentenced to death in Guangdong for their involvement in what was described as China's biggest smuggling case since 1949.
The men were identified as Lee Shen, Zhang Yi, Deng Chongan and Chen Lisheng.
Two mainland Customs officials - Cao Xiukang and Zhu Xiangcheng - were also sentenced to death for taking bribes, Xinhua reported.
Five courts also handed out eight suspended death sentences and jailed two defendants for life.
A total of 25 people were convicted and sentenced. The news agency did not specify the jail terms for some of those convicted. Xinhua said the four Hong Kong men had paid off almost the entire Customs office in Zhanjiang as well as local Communist Party secretary Chen Tongqing and vice-mayor Yang Quqing.
The smugglers evaded paying as much as one billion yuan (HK$930 million) in duties.
The four were found guilty of bribery, and smuggling 248 cars, more than 3,600 car bodies, 190,000 tonnes of steel products, 40,000 tonnes of diesel and 10,000 tonnes of raw sugar between 1996 and 1998, Xinhua said.
Cao, formerly head of Zhanjiang Customs, was convicted of accepting cash and property worth more than 2.4 million yuan while Zhu, who was in charge of anti-smuggling investigations, was found guilty of accepting over 6.2 million yuan in cash and gifts.
Both Chen Tongqing and Yang were given suspended death sentences yesterday.
Xinhua said it was the biggest smuggling case since 1949, both in terms of the amount of money and the number of government and party officials involved.
The scandal came to light last year.
Premier Zhu Rongji was said to have been so enraged when he heard reports from officials during a visit to Guangdong that he ordered a thorough investigation into the case.