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Plot inspired by TV show - court

FOUR alleged kidnappers were arrested yesterday, accused of snatching a wealthy businessman and receiving a 5.8-million-yuan (US$847,953) ransom for his release.

Jinshan District prosecutors allege the gang's ringleader, Liu Yuping, a 27-year-old Henan Province native, got the idea from a television show about a man who kidnapped a hostage when he could not earn money after coming to Shanghai from his hometown.

"I didn't know the victim at all," Liu told prosecutors. "Me and some other men from my village looked for people driving expensive cars. I thought it was a disgrace if I went back to my hometown without earning a lot of money. I didn't know kidnapping was a serious crime."

Liu, who had a jewelry business in Henan Province, came to Shanghai's Jinshan District last October with three men from his hometown ?? Chen Shanwei, Wu Haoran and Zhong Xinhao. The men didn't find work and had soon spent most of their money.

"I thought I could earn enough money in one attempt if I copied the television show," Liu allegedly told prosecutors. "I didn't think I would be caught."

Liu persuaded the others to join in. Prosecutors said the three agreed because Liu was paying their expenses in Shanghai.

The gang bought knives, iron chains, sunglasses, a telescope, adhesive tape, two toy guns and two walkie-talkies. Liu also rented a house in Zhejiang Province to keep the hostage.

Liu told his co-conspirators to follow luxury cars to find a target, prosecutors said.

The gang followed a BMW and learned the owner was a real estate company boss named Li Tianfu. Li was often alone in the car and always returned home late at night.

On the night of November 25, the gang allegedly waited in the residential community where Li lived. When Li arrived, they forced him into their car with the toy guns, then drove Li to the rented house in Zhejiang, prosecutors said.

Liu told Li they were part of a large kidnapping gang. Li agreed to pay a 5-million-yuan ransom and called a friend. The friend misheard the sum and agreed to pay 5.8 million yuan, Liu allegedly told prosecutors.

After being held for seven days, Li was released on December 2, after Li's family collected the money and delivered the ransom. He then went to the police.

The police quickly caught the gang members, who had returned to their hometown to celebrate their success. Nearly 5 million yuan was returned to the victim.

Liu told prosecutors he had bought a car, gold jewelry and other expensive things with the money.


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