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3 arrested for tea, firecracker extortion

THREE men believed to have extorted at least 450,000 yuan (US$65,840) by forcing people to buy poor-quality tea and firecrackers have been arrested, Songjiang District police said yesterday.

Police believe many of the gang's alleged victims have yet to come forward.

Seven alleged victims have made statements to the police so far. They said their lives were threatened or they were warned their businesses would be destroyed if they refused to buy the products.

"Based on what we have learned, there were more individuals and companies extorted in the same way," said a district police spokesman.

None of the seven victims had come forward until investigators approached them, because they were too scared to talk, police said.

One of the victims allegedly told police he had been forced to buy poor-quality products several times last December and this April. He is said to have paid 220,000 yuan to one of the suspects after threats were made to him and his family. Police said they couldn't meet the victims at police stations because they were too scared to be seen there.

Tea they were forced to buy was valued at about 40 yuan per kilogram but priced at 100 times that amount. Victims were forced to buy firecrackers for up to 5,000 yuan.


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