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December 14, 2012

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'Private detectives' jailed for abduction, extortion

MAKING a living in the "grey area" of the law, a group of people, cracking up to be private detectives, now find themselves behind bars.

Their crime: They illegally "abducted" people while working as debt-collectors, beating the victims, if necessary. They fed debtors vinegar to force them to pay up.

Six people of a so-called private detective agency were sentenced to between eight to 22 months' jail for illegal detention and extortion, the Shanghai Jing'an People's Court said yesterday.

"I knew the business was illegal," said the group leader, surnamed Cui. "We usually threatened them with words."

Actually they did more than that, said the court.

Under the cover of a registered consulting company first established in 2010, the ring offered to investigate extramarital affairs and pose as debt collectors for a fee. The debt-collecting got ugly if the initial "language threat" didn't work.

In March this year they forced a debtor, surnamed Ding, to pay back 400,000 yuan (US$63,930) by slapping him and then forcibly feeding him vinegar.

The trick was used again and got elevated to a new level on April 7 when Cui gathered his staff and broke into a debtor's home, seeking 700,000 yuan.

Despite beatings and threats, the debtor refused, which resulted in the illegal abduction of his daughter, the court said.

The gang held the daughter and her boyfriend at a local Internet cafe for hours. That proved to be their undoing. For the police had been alerted and they seized Cui and his gang when they tried to exchange the hostages for the money.

The private detective business has been thriving in the city in recent years, especially for cases involving extramarital affairs, business spying and man-hunt. Advertisements bloom on the Internet, touting detectives for hire and sale of monitoring equipment.


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