Cosmetics smuggler’s sentence reduced
A former flight attendant who was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison for smuggling cosmetics had her sentence reduced to three years in a retrial, a Beijing court announced on Tuesday.
Li Xiaohang, a former Hainan Airlines flight attendant, said she will appeal the latest sentence.
Beijing No 2 Intermediate People’s Court also reduced her fine from 500,000 yuan ($82,300) to 40,000 yuan.
Li was convicted of smuggling cosmetics purchased at South Korean duty-free shops through Chinese customs. She then sold the products online, according to the court’s verdict in September 2012.
The court said Li smuggled cosmetics on 30 occasions between 2010 and 2011, evading taxes worth up to 1.13 million yuan.
In May, Beijing High People’s Court sent the case back to the intermediate court for a retrial because it claimed there was a lack of evidence after Li filed for an appeal.
Li was convicted of the same crime in the most recent verdict, but the court said Li avoided paying 83,000 yuan in taxes.
“This explains why the sentence and the fine were both reduced,” said Zhang Yan, Li’s lawyer.
Zhang said Li believes the sentence is still too harsh and will file an appeal .
Under the Chinese Criminal Law, people face a maximum of three years in prison if they avoid paying 150,000 yuan in taxes for smuggled goods, said the lawyer.
“My client shouldn’t receive the maximum penalty because her tax evasion amount was far less than 150,000 yuan,” he said.
In February, a Shanghai court sentenced two women shop owners to a year in prison with an 18- month reprieve for buying duty-free goods in South Korea last year, Zhang claimed.
“The sentences for the same crime are different. I don’t think it is reasonable,” he said. “It was my client’s first offense and she pleaded guilty with a good attitude, so she should receive some leniency.”
Wu Ming’an, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said he agreed with the latest verdict and sentence.
“The more important issue is improving supervision at Chinese customs,” he said.
Wu Zongxian, a criminal law professor at Beijing Normal University, said many residents are not aware that they must pay taxes if the total value of their goods is more than 5,000 yuan.
Guo Xiamei, 29, who said she frequently makes trips to the United States, said the customs check in China is random and far from strict.
“Students often pass through customs quickly because (customs) don’t like the ones who take in many products with them,” she said. “Or in other words, the simple check has provided loopholes for those who intend to avoid paying taxes.”