BEIJING, Apr 6 (Reuters) A Chinese court handed down suspended death sentences and jail terms to 12 members of a cooking oil smuggling ring that bribed customs officials and evaded 300 million dollars in tariffs, state media said today.
Yang Gaiqing, 50, a Hong Kong resident, and co-defendant Liu Hao were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for coordinating a ring that smuggled 827,500 tonnes of edible oil and paid 10 million yuan in bribes over 20 years, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Ten other members were jailed for between three and 10 years after six years of investigations and litigation.
A court in Guangzhou, capital of the southern province of Guangdong near Hong Kong, heard that Yang also illegally traded import permits for olive oil, soybean oil and rape seed between 1966 and 1998.
Yang was detained in January 2000 and sentenced to death by a lower court in January 2004.
China has launched crackdowns on smuggling and tax evasion since joining the World Trade Organisation in 2001 but human rights and environmental groups say illegal imports and exports ranging from Southeast Asian timber to humans are still widespread.
Reuters SHB DB1254