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Australian gets 30 months in prison for smuggling 47 gold bars

AN Australian man who tried to leave China with 47 gold bars weighing 2.9 kilograms without declaring them was given a 30-month suspended prison sentence for smuggling the precious metal, Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court announced today.

The Australian smuggler, Chen Yingchen, 34, was born in Taiwan and served as the vice general manager of a Jiangsu-based management company, according to prosecutors. When he was about to depart from Pudong International Airport for Taiwan on July 27 and went through a security check, he was found to be carrying 2.9 kilograms of undeclared gold in a blue laptop bag.

The gold bars were stored in plastic bags with no attempt at disguising them.

He confessed to smuggling at the scene but was let go over an urgent matter by Customs as a humanitarian measure, though the gold was seized, officials said. He arrived in Shanghai three weeks later and was detained on August 21 after local police called him to come back.

Chen said the gold bars were given to him by his fiancee's relatives as a gift for their engagement, which the fiancee's aunt confirmed, and were said to be meant only as gifts.

But prosecutors said according to a transcript of an interview with Customs, Chen said he was forced by friends to carry the gold bars for sale. Chen's lawyer said that statement was a result of Chen's anxious mental condition and should be disregarded.

The lawyer attempted to seek a lighter penalty for Chen since he is a first offender and surrendered voluntarily.

Considering Chen's background and voluntary surrender, the court gave him a prison term of two and a half years with a two-and-a-half-year reprieve and a fine of 100,000 yuan (US$16,525). All the gold seized was confiscated.

It's the city's first such prosecution in modern history involving precious metal smuggling. Under Chinese law, precious metal smugglers face imprisonment of more than five years.


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