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Jail terms for visa-fraud gang

A SHANGHAI man who helped more than 100 people travel to Europe and the United States using falsified documents was sentenced to 14 years in prison yesterday.

The defendant, Jiang Yi, ran a 24-member gang that constituted one of the country's biggest human-smuggling rings, the court said. Six other gang members were also jailed yesterday by the Jinshan District People's Court, on terms ranging from one to five years. The court didn't reveal verdicts for any of the others involved.

In addition to his prison term, Jiang, 30, was fined 2 million yuan (US$292,400) for helping people enter other countries illegally.

The court rejected his defense that he simply aided clients in applying for visas without knowing their real motives for traveling overseas. The judges indicated they believed Jiang was fully aware of his customers' real purpose.

His lawyer later said Jiang planned to appeal.

Jiang's group falsified documents to help clients of his purported visa service, which was run out of a virtual office in Shanghai's luxury Jin Mao Tower, the court heard. Jiang falsely claimed that his clients, mostly farmers from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, were senior managers who intended to go abroad for business purposes.

He hired workers to write to overseas exhibition organizers that a client was planning to attend the event and requested an invitation letter to complete the visa process.

He also trained his clients on how to answer questions in the face-to-face interviews with visa officials.

The gang helped 166 people gain visas and travel overseas using falsified information from 2002 to 2008, the court found.

More than 300 other applications failed. The court did not reveal how many of those who left might have returned to China.

The gang charged clients from 30,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan depending on their destination and refunded the money if they failed to complete their trip.


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