Death for seven in huge counterfeit group

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 September, 2000, 12:00am

A GUANGDONG court has handed down the death penalty to seven members of a gang that printed more than 640 million yuan (HK$60 million) in counterfeit currency.

The Intermediate People's Court in Shanwei city on Friday also sentenced three other men to life in prison and two men to sentences of 12 and 10 years, the official Beijing Morning Post said.

The scandal has been described as the biggest counterfeiting operation in the nation's modern history. During the four years from April 1995 to June last year, the group printed and distributed 641.65 million yuan worth of fake bank notes, the newspaper said.

Investigators found the group eluded detection by frequently moving its printers to different locations in eastern Guangdong, including the canteen of a Communist Party office at a farm in Yuanhubo county.

Investigators said the ring was a tight organisation with sophisticated printing machines whose counterfeit notes were distributed throughout the country.

Of the seven sentenced to death, Zhuo Zhenyuan was apparently the most active, having a personal hand in the printing of 616 million yuan of fake currency, the report said. The rest were found guilty of playing smaller roles.

Officials said more than 90 per cent of seized fake banknotes this year were printed in Guangdong.

Despite a government crackdown, fake bank notes - particularly 100 yuan notes, the highest denomination in China - are still common, especially in coastal areas.

Two years ago, a Taiwan fishing boat was discovered off the Guangdong coast carrying fake bills worth US$9 million (HK$70 million).

In May, Beijing adopted a law for 'control of the people's currency', as part of on-going efforts to stem the flow of fake notes.