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May 13, 2011

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Accused refuse to surrender gold

TWO men who, along with another person, stole more than 3 kilograms of gold from a local hypermarket during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo insisted at yesterday's hearing that they had misplaced 2kg of the precious metal.

So far, only 1kg of the gold, carried by the third defendant Wang Fei, has been recovered.

Zhang Degang, 33, told the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court he had concealed his gold in the woods and it was missing when he directed police there.

His accomplice Zhang Bin, 43, also told the court his share was lost when he was riding a bicycle. He repeated this several times at the hearing and wondered aloud why nobody believed him.

This assertion was contradicted by Wang, 33, who claimed that Zhang Bin had told him that he would plead guilty but would not hand over the stolen gold.

The three defendants, all natives from southwestern Chongqing Municipality, decided to snatch the gold from the Jiujia Jewels counter at an E-Mart outlet on Lianhua Road S. in Minhang District last August because Zhang Degang used to work as a security guard in a residential community near the hypermarket and was familiar with it.

They thought police in Shanghai would be too busy with the Expo and wouldn't have time to pursue them.

The trio prepared masks, toy guns and smoke bombs and came to Shanghai in early September. They first studied the surroundings of the hypermarket and decided to act on September 8, 2010, by which time they had spent all their money.

About 8pm, when the security guards changed their shift, they rushed to the counter. They threatened sales staff with the toy guns, threw the bombs to produce smoke and smashed the showcase with the knives, the court heard.

They took away 3,071 grams of gold and platinum ornaments valued at about 1 million yuan (US$153,882) within two minutes, prosecutors said.

They escaped to Chongqing the next day, divided the gold equally and separated.

Police homed in on Zhang Bin first by using forensic evidence gathered from his mask and he surrendered.

"I used to have a successful business, but I joined in the robbery because the business was losing money," he said. "I was too silly and I regret it."

The other two were caught soon and police confiscated 1kg of gold which was with Wang in Chongqing.

Prosecutors also charged Zhang Degang with robbing a woman taxi driver with others on July 25, 2009, in Guizhou Province. But the defendant denied the charge.

The court didn't announce any verdict after the hearing.


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