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Court hears of huge alloy theft

NINE went on trial yesterday for allegedly stealing 9.4 tons of alloy valued at 1.6 million yuan (US$234,080) from a steel factory operated by state-owned Baosteel Group.

Seven defendants, including three employees of the factory, were charged with larceny. Two other defendants, who allegedly bought the stolen alloy, were charged with hiding illegal income.

The seven defendants, headed by Yu Xiaolin, 33, a Sichuan Province native, allegedly colluded to drive trucks into the factory on six occasions to steal niobium iron in June last year. From their theft they earned illegal income of 1.9 million yuan, more than the alloy is now worth, the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court heard.

Prosecutors alleged Yu, Zeng Wu, 39, and Li Zhiliang, 31, met in June to plan the thefts because alloy prices were high at the time.

They decided that Yu would take charge of contacting Chen Shelin and Xu Jin, two waste collectors, to sell the stolen alloy and find vehicles to transport the niobium iron, the court heard.

Zeng was responsible for coordinating with factory security staff to allow the vehicles in and provide inside information. Li was tasked with organizing people to steal the iron, according to prosecutors.

When Yu Yuanmin, an entrance guard at the factory, and Wang Yong, a security guard at the factory, were on duty, they would inform other gang members to enter at night, prosecutors said.

Zhao Jie, also a security guard at the factory, provided information about patrol times and areas where the gang members could find niobium iron, the court heard.

"The group covered a large area of dozens of square kilometers," Zhao said. "There were no security cameras in some places and more than 40 security guards are far from enough to supervise the entire area."

The niobium iron was sold at about 200 yuan per kilogram to Chen and Xu. The illegal income was divided between the seven gang members, prosecutors said.

The gang was captured by police on July 4.

Yu Xiaolin told the court that he only sold the stolen iron. He said he had never entered the factory and never took part in the thefts.

"My role was to buy the stolen alloy from Li and his members and then sell it to Chen and Xu to make money on the price difference," Yu Xiaolin told the court. "I didn't share in the illegal income division."

The others admitted to stealing the alloy, but said the amount was not as much as prosecutors alleged. The court has yet to announce a verdict.


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