A Tianjin district court has sent two brothers to prison for attempting to extort US$4.8 million (HK$37 million) from two mainland noodle makers. The firms were subsidiaries of two Taiwanese companies, Ting Hsin International Group and President Group, which control 70 per cent of the mainland's instant noodle market. One defendant, Zhou Yuliang, 31, wrote to Ting Hsin's Tianjin office in February, 1999, saying he had poisoned some of the company's instant noodles in various places on the mainland. He demanded US$2.16 million. Zhou told the firm to deliver the money to Xian in Shaanxi province, where his younger brother, Zhou Yu, had hired someone to handle the pick-up. But Zhou Yu, fearing a possible police trap, backed out. The elder Zhou then turned to the President Group's Shanghai offices for cash. Last September, he wrote the group a similar threatening letter about poisoned products, this time asking for US$2.68 million. The company ignored his threat. The frustrated extortionist decided he needed to get serious. So, he sent a case of poisoned Ting Hsin's Master Kang brand noodles to their Tianjin office. He also claimed that more poisoned noodles were out on the market. The police caught up with Zhou in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, shortly afterwards and two days later found his brother at Urumqi, in the Xinjiang region. The authorities refused to release detail or explain exactly how they found the perpetrators of the unusual extortion case. The one piece of information they did disclose was that the elder Zhou was given 10 years in prison for his attempt and his brother jailed for four years.