Cigarette packaging scam puts 21 in prison

By Chen Xiaoru Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-11 22:38:01

Jiading District People's Court has sentenced 21 people to prison for participating in a 2 million yuan ($326,600) scheme to repackage cheaper tobacco and sell it as 65-yuan-per-pack Chunghwa brand cigarettes, the court said Sunday.

The court handed down sentences ranging from six and a half years to nine years in prison to the four ringleaders, according to a court press release.

The group planned to profit by buying hard packs of Chunghwa cigarettes, which retail for 45 yuan per pack, and then repackage them as the more expensive Chunghwa soft packs. 

They manufactured the packaging for the soft packs by themselves, said Gao Yan, a court press officer.

They also planned to resell the Chunghwa hard packs, which they refilled with cheaper cigarettes of a different brand.

The court said they had spent 2 million yuan on cigarettes to get the scheme up and running. 

One of the ringleaders, surnamed Zhang, leased two properties in March 2012 for the scheme, including a factory in Jiading district, the court said.

The ring hired workers from Yunxiao county, Fujian Province, to produce the phony cigarettes.

"Rather than hiring locals, the criminal ring employed workers from Yunxiao county because they are skilled at processing tobacco leaves and wouldn't need extra training," Gao told the Global Times.

The ring printed codes unique to the soft pack cigarettes onto the cigarettes they took from the hard packs, the court said.

The four ringleaders took charge of different aspects of the scheme. A defendant surnamed Zhen was responsible for hiring workers from Fujian.

Another surnamed Zhuang was in charge of purchasing the genuine cigarettes.

A third surnamed Ke handled the sales, and Zhang oversaw the whole operation.

The group had just begun selling the repackaged cigarettes in April 2012 when they were raided by police.

The court ordered all 21 participants to pay fines of an undisclosed amount.

Posted in: Society, Metro Shanghai

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