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English>>China Society

3 smugglers' sentences stir debate

By Zheng Jinran and Cao Yin  (China Daily)

08:51, September 07, 2012

Three people who bought goods overseas to sell in China have been charged with smuggling and received severe sentences, triggering a heated discussion over whether the booming online purchasing agents industry has crossed a line.

Li Xiaohang, 30, a former flight attendant, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for buying makeup from duty-free shops in South Korea and passing the items through customs as personal belongings instead of goods "many times" between 2010 and August 2011.

The import duty on cosmetics, the most popular type of overseas purchase, is high in China.

Li evaded 1.13 million yuan ($178,000) in taxes, according to Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court, which heard this case on Monday. She also received a 500,000 yuan fine.

Li's partners, Chu Ziqiao, 31, and Shi Haidong, 40, were responsible for buying goods from duty-free shops in South Korea and selling them through their online shops on Taobao, according to the court.

Chu was sentenced to seven years in prison and Shi five years.

"It's very rare to see such kind of cases involving smuggling in this way in recent years, and I never heard of a similar punishment for smuggling makeup," Li Zhitao, a publicity official of the court, told China Daily.

In response to the case, the management authority for Chinese online marketplace Taobao, where the smuggled goods were sold, on Thursday called on other shop owners who provide online purchasing services to obey the laws and regulations and make their businesses legal.

"No more detailed measures to prevent such smuggling of goods have been released yet," said Suo Chao, a Taobao public relations staff.

More than 5,000 verified shops on Taobao provided overseas purchasing services in 2011.

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