Worker given life sentence for ATM windfall may get retrial

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2008, 12:00am

The lawyer for a migrant worker jailed for life for withdrawing 175,000 yuan from a faulty ATM in Guangzhou said his client may be given a retrial.

Guangzhou-based lawyer Wu Yichun said sources had told him yesterday a retrial would take place, possibly reversing the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court's 'legal but unfair' December ruling.

Xu Ting, 24, has only lodged an appeal against conviction but not a request for a retrial. However, under mainland law, courts can take the initiative to order a retrial.

Xu took the money from an ATM in Guangzhou two years ago after finding that for every 1,000 yuan withdrawn from his account, only 1 yuan was debited.

He told a friend, who withdrew 18,000 yuan from the same machine.

The friend was jailed for a year after surrendering to police, but Xu was sentenced to life in prison when arrested a year later.

The criminal code set down 10 years ago states that only life imprisonment or the death penalty can be handed down for serious theft cases. Any amount above 100,000 yuan is considered serious.

Eight lawyers filed a petition on Tuesday, urging the country's highest legislative body to alter the criminal code to bring it in line with today's economic situation. But the case also sparked broader discussion.

In the appeal documents submitted on Monday, before the possibility of a retrial was made known, Mr Wu advocated that Xu's actions should not be classified as a criminal case of theft because they lacked the element of deceit. The bank should have pursued Xu for his improper gains through civil procedures.

Li Fangping, chief drafter of the petition, said he hoped the mainland would eventually adopt a case-law system with Chinese characteristics.

But Peking University law professor He Weifang said a case-law system would be a long shot given the supremacy of legislatures on the mainland.

But Mr Wu said: 'If a retrial is approved, we hope that we can find some similar cases in other countries to offer a reference.'


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