China sentenced Lai Changxing, a member of a crime ring in Fujian province, to life imprisonment after he was convicted of smuggling a total of 27.4 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) of goods from 1995 to 1999.
Lai also bribed 64 government officials with cash, properties and cars worth a total value of 39 million yuan, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the Intermediate People’s Court in China’s southern Xiamen as saying.
Lai, the main subject of an investigation into a smuggling ring dating back to the 1990s in southeastern Fujian, fled to Canada in 1999 and fought his extradition to China on grounds he may be put to death.
Canada, which abolished the death penalty in 1976, generally refuses to extradite people to countries where they may be executed. Lai was returned to China last year after Chinese authorities pledged not to execute him.
Former Premier Zhu Rongji said in July 2001 that he would “try my best” to bring Lai to justice, according to Xinhua. At least 160 government officials at Xiamen’s customs service, or 13 percent of its staff, were found to have been involved with Lai, the official People’s Daily newspaper said last July, calling it the biggest economic crime case since the founding of Communist-run China in 1949.
Li Jizhou, China’s former vice public security minister, was sentenced to death with reprieve in 2001 after a court found he was involved with Lai’s smuggling ring, according to People’s Daily.
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