Eight officials in Guangdong were sentenced yesterday for running a smuggling racket which involved merchandise worth 440 million yuan (HK$411.8 million). Announcing the verdicts, Vice-President of the Supreme People's Court Liu Jiachen attacked local officials who sacrificed the country's interests for personal gain. Mr Liu said: 'Smuggling has become very rampant in some areas. This is because our party and government officials in these areas only care about their own interests and take a lax attitude in condoning smuggling. 'The People's Court will definitely pursue the criminal responsibilities of these decision-makers and principal officials in charge who have cost the country great losses.' The semi-official China News Service said Guangdong's Huidong party secretary Li Xipeng was sentenced to five years in jail for dereliction of duty. County government head Li Binnan got four years for the same offence. Also sentenced were: Huidong police chief Zhang Zhicheng; his deputy Fang Shouquan; deputy finance chief Lin Dingyou; the head of the Industrial and Commercial Bureau Yuan Yaonan; deputy county head Bai Yesi, and the director of the anti-smuggling office Ma Huanxin. The news agency did not report details of their sentences. Since the eight were arrested in 1996, it meant Li Xipeng and Li Binnan would serve no more than another three years in jail. They were both convicted for allowing the import of more than 16,000 undeclared vehicles and collecting 46 million yuan in 'handling fees' from smugglers. Part of their earnings were in return for furnishing the required certificates for 145 unlicensed vehicles. From February to September 1995, Li called three 'anti-smuggling' meetings with local cadres in which he ordered them not to seize the smuggled merchandise when they found them. He told them to keep the border open as long as the smugglers paid their fees. The county chief endorsed his decision, the news agency reported. Their actions had cost the state more than 290 million yuan in Customs duties.