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January 16, 2011

Real-life drama in China over crime and punishment of toll dodgers

As effectively explained in this BBC article, many fascinating aspects of China's criminal justice system is brought to light in an amazing and still developing story of massive toll evasion.  Here are the details:

The younger brother of a Chinese man sentenced to life in prison for dodging road tolls has turned himself into police, state media reports.  Shi Junfeng said he -- and not his elder brother - had put military number plates on the vehicles to evade tolls of 3.7m yuan (£350,000;$560,000).

The case caused an outcry in China, with many questioning the harsh sentence given to Shi Jianfeng.  The court in Henan province had already ordered a retrial.

Shi Jianfeng had been found guilty last week of evading the fees over a nine-month period while delivering sand and gravel in two trucks.  The court ruled he had used military number plates, meaning the vehicles could avoid paying road tolls. He was sentenced to life in prison, a fine of 2m yuan and the loss of his political rights. He also had his illegal earnings confiscated.

But last Friday, the court in Pingdingshan ordered a retrial of the case, ruling that other people may have been involved. Court official Liu Penghua said the convicted man had claimed he was "manipulated by a relative," the Xinhua news agency reported.

On Saturday night, Shi Junfeng turned himself in to police in Yuzhou City, saying his brother, a farmer, had taken the blame for him.  It appears he had not thought his older brother would be sentenced so severely, telling police he had offered bribes to officials and had been assured he would be released quickly....

The case had generated a furious reaction online in China. Many argued that far more lenient sentences are usually given for more serious crimes.  There were also complaints that road tolls, required on most major highways, are too high for ordinary people to be able to afford.

I find the notion that a Chinese driver could rack up over a half-million dollars in tolls over a nine-month period to be perhaps the most stunning part of this whole story.  I often think tolls going from New Jersey into Manhattan are crazy high, but even the most expensive route is not more than $25 round trip.  One would have to make that costly trip more than fifty times every day to have a toll bill anywhere comparable to what these Chinese brothers racked up.

January 16, 2011 at 11:14 AM | Permalink


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Tolls for commercial vehicles can be significantly higher than passenger vehicles. Additionally, a commercial vehicle engaged in an activity like sand delivery is likely to make a large number of relatively short daily runs (since there is a strong incentive to obtain a commodity like sand from a local source), so it is possible to have many encounters with a toll point in a single day.

All that said, I agree that it still seems high.

Posted by: Anon23 | Jan 17, 2011 11:02:01 AM

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