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Courts target expat debtors

A CHINESE-CANADIAN has finally paid a court-ordered debt of 950,000 yuan (US$139,092) only after his passport was seized.

This is a new measure local courts have adopted with the cooperation of immigration police to force foreign citizens to pay their debts, judges said yesterday.

In this case, handled by the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, Chen Guoping paid about 1 million yuan to a Canadian emigration agency to help him move there in 2000 but it failed to get him a visa.

Chen asked the chief representative of the agency's Shanghai office, Chinese-Canadian Sun Jianxin, to return the money but only got an IOU note.

Chen sued the agency and Sun in early 2007. The agency and Sun did not attend the hearing and Chen, presenting the IOU, won the lawsuit in September 2007.

When the court ordered the two defendants to pay up, they found the agency had moved offices and Sun didn't own any property in China. So judges asked immigration officials to stop Sun from leaving the country.

According to the latest rules issued by the Supreme People's Court, those who are directly responsible for outstanding debts can be stopped from leaving the country.

At the end of last year, Beijing frontier inspectors called Chen to say they had seized Sun's passport. Sun had to contact the court to lift the restriction. He negotiated with Chen and finally paid him 950,000 yuan early this week.

Yesterday, the Shanghai Higher People's Court started a week-long campaign to urge debtors to pay up.

Judges from the Huangpu District People's Court went to Shanghai Qiansi Decoration Material Supermarket yesterday to enforce payment of about 10 million yuan.

Judges opened the supermarket's safe and seized the accounts of the supermarket and another related company. The court also froze two accounts belonging to the supermarket.


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