Some desperate Beijing motorists are resorting to sham marriages to get round strict licence plate rules that are designed to limit the number of cars allowed on the city’s congested roads. A report by state broadcaster CCTV that aired on Sunday night claimed that some drivers were willing to pay the equivalent of tens of thousands of US dollars to marry someone with one of the prized plates, have it transferred into their name and then get divorced. Specialist agencies charge over 160,000 yuan (US$22,700) to help their clients obtain a licence this way for a petrol-driven car, or over 110,000 yuan for an electric-powered one, according to the report. The scam is the result of a licence lottery first introduced in 2011 to tackle the Chinese capital’s notorious congestion and pollution. Chinese driver arrested for doctoring number plate to spell out obscene phrase Because of the strict limits on the number of Beijing number plates issued, there are now 2,600 applicants for every one issued for petrol-powered vehicles. Those who wanted a licence for an electric car may have to wait until 2028, the report said. The government has also been steadily lowering the annual quota for new local licences from 240,000 in 2013 to 100,000 last year. The owners of locally registered cars are also banned from using them on one day a week, which is determined according to the plate number. Cars that do not have a Beijing licence plate face severe limits on driving in the city. The owners of these cars must apply for a permit that only allows them to use their cars for seven days at a time – and as of this month they are only allowed 12 permits a year. The result is that many drivers have been looking for legal ways to get round the limits – with the sham marriages being one of the most extreme examples. “We receive at least three or four clients a day asking to get a licence via fake marriages,” a manager at one agency told a CCTV reporter. A staff worker helps go through all the procedures and if a suitable match is found, the process can be completed within 20 days. Another loophole some are taking advantage of is to buy a car in the name of someone who has won the licence lottery, according to the agency. Chinese police do U-turn on traffic crash after online crowd doubt official account The actual user pays for the car in full, registers it under the licence owner’s name, and pays the latter a sum of money for using the licence – typically 20,000 yuan a year, 49,000 yuan for three years or 69,000 for a five-year deal. In many cases, the two parties sign an agreement to limit the risk of a protracted dispute, but one judge warned that this was still a risky business. Wang Lidan, a judge at Haidian District People’s Court in the northwest of the capital, told the programme makers that he knew of one case where a woman had paid a man with a Beijing licence to marry her, only for him to vanish after receiving the money. Not only did the woman miss out on getting the licence but she faced an extra legal headache in getting a divorce. Under Chinese law she had to first publish a notice about his disappearance in a newspaper and then wait three months before the divorce could go through the courts.