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July 29, 2010

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Spot a cloned cab and pick up a reward

A REWARD of 500 yuan (US$73) is being offered by the city taxi industry association for tip-offs about illegal, or "cloned," cabs.

It's the first time the watchdog has resumed cash incentives for the public after several scandals involving evidence-collecting last year.

But this time informers will not be involved in collecting evidence and identifying illegal cabbies, said officials, work which should be conducted by the city traffic law enforcement team.

Wu Runyuan, a spokesman with the team, said the procedure "aims to avoid any possible wrongdoings of officials."

Government officials had been criticized for using entrapment or even hiring bounty hunters to set up and charge some innocent drivers last year.

This time passengers are being encouraged to take photos or write down the taxi plates and then dial a hotline, 6535-3930.

After the illegal operations are confirmed, the informers would receive the reward. Illegal drivers would be fined up to 50,000 yuan.

Despite the incentive, however, authorities said it would still be a tough job collecting evidence and nailing illegal operations as offenders usually used fake car plates.

"The complaints about such activities are mounting," said Hong Tianlin, director of the local taxi industry association. "The city's image is being damaged."

Officials said the number of "cloned taxis," which use second-hand taxi equipment bought on the black market, is increasing by 10 percent a year.

It is estimated that there are up to 6,000 cloned cabs in the city. Shanghai has about 50,000 legal taxis.

The team caught 109 cloned cabs in the first half of the year. About half of the offenders were caught after a tip-off. The rest were found during citywide crackdowns.

The cost of a retired regular cab is about 15,000 to 20,000 yuan and the car equipment costs another 3,000 yuan.

But the payback is good as drivers can earn three to five times more than regular cabbies with offenders usually making detours or use tampered meters.

The watchdog said it had also found some drivers of cloned taxis switching passengers' transport cards for fakes.


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