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Police Crack Major Oil Smuggling Case
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An oil smuggling case worth about 14.4 million yuan (US$1.8 million) has been cracked recently by customs officials in the capital city of east China's Fujian Province.

Officers detained 19 suspects who evaded taxes of more than 3.4 million yuan (US$422,000) in the case, 12 of whom were prosecuted on Tuesday.

More than 3,600 tons of oil were involved in the smuggling operation.

It is one of the largest cases of its kind uncovered in recent years in the province, according to Fuzhou Customs.

In June last year, the anti-smuggling department under Fuzhou Customs received a report over smuggled oil being sold in the province's Pingtan County.

Local customs officers looked into the case and found that a gang of smugglers often bought oil in the area around Taiwan Straits and then resold it through a middleman in the markets in Pingtan and the city of Fuqing.

On August 25, customs officials in Pingtan, Quanzhou and Fuzhou captured 18 members of the gang in a joint operation. The final major suspect was caught in October.

Further investigations revealed that, colluding with Taiwan criminals, the gang was led by Lao Li, who purchased fishery oil quotas given by Taiwan authorities to local fishermen.

The smugglers then sold the oil to buyers on the mainland to make big profits.

The gang carried out about 40 runs of bringing the diesel oil to the mainland from April last year before being apprehended.

Driven by high profits, oil smuggling has been rampant in recent years in Fujian, said He Huaxiang, an official with Fuzhou Customs.

According to He, Taiwan and other smugglers overseas convert their fishing boats into makeshift oil tankers and sell the oil illegally to mainland accomplices in the sea areas around Taiwan Straits. Their trade is often held secretly in inshore areas, which are hard to cover by anti-smuggling departments.

(China Daily February 17, 2006)

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