Cos­met­ics smug­gler’s sen­tence re­duced

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By CAO YIN caoyin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.”

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