Seven jailed after Chinese police investigation into personal data theft

Defendants were likely part of a nationwide network, more suspects expected to face trial

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 5:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 5:36pm

Seven members of a Chinese gang that stole and sold millions of pieces of personal information have been sentenced to prison terms of up to five-and-a-half years, local media reported.

The defendants, all of whom were men, were sentenced on Friday, after a trial at the People’s Court of Songyang County in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, Legal Daily reported on Wednesday.

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The report did not specify what roles the seven defendants played in the thefts or fraud, but suggested they were part of a nationwide operation that since early last year had stolen more than 700 million items of personal data, of which 80 million had been sold for 1.2 million yuan (US$183,000).

The Songyang County Public Security Bureau began investigating in March 2016 after being alerted to dozens of alleged cases of identity theft involving company bosses in the county.

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Their initial investigation, which lasted about a month, led to the arrest of 11 suspects, the report said, though it did not say if any of the 11 were among the seven people sent to prison last week.

Police discovered that the gang, which by then they believed was operating across the country, was stealing and trading a wide range of personal information, including bank account details, driving licence and ID card data, and even women’s pregnancy records, the report said.

More people were arrested, including several who were accused of running chat groups on social media that had been set up specifically to serve the trade in stolen information, it said.

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It did not give a total figure for the number of people arrested, but said the trial in Songyang was the first in a series.

The seven men sentenced on Friday were given prison terms of between three and five-and-a-half years, and fines of between 30,000 yuan and 400,000 yuan, the report said.