Shi Junfeng, the younger brother of a farmer sentenced to life in prison for evading highway tolls, is interviewed by media on Saturday after he turned himself in to police in Yuzhou city, Henan province. Provided to China Daily
BEIJING - In the latest twist in a case that has attracted wide media attention, the younger brother of a farmer sentenced to life in prison for evading highway tolls has turned himself in, saying he was actually the one responsible.
Shi Junfeng, younger brother of the sentenced Shi Jianfeng, turned himself in at around 10 pm Saturday in Yuzhou city in Central China's Henan province, police said.
The younger Shi said he had paid bribes after his brother was detained and was told he would soon be released.
Instead, he was sentenced to life in jail.
The severity of the sentence triggered a public outcry.
The younger Shi said the media attention gave him the courage to turn himself in, Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Sunday.
"I want to speak the truth," he was quoted saying on the way to the police station.
The younger Shi said he had given bribes of 1.3 million yuan on two occasions to a retired mine boss surnamed Tang after police detained his brother and two trucks.
"I heard that Tang was also a government official and his brother-in-law was with the public security bureau," he said.
"They told me that my brother could be released the second day after I gave them the money, but then he was sentenced to life in jail. I felt I was cheated," he said.
The elder Shi was convicted of fraud for using counterfeit military driver's licenses, military ID cards and military license plates to evade highway tolls totaling 3.68 million yuan ($558,000), according to the verdict of the Pingdingshan Intermediate People's Court.
Military vehicles, including those of the Armed Police, do not need to pay tolls.
Tollgate records showed that the elder Shi avoided toll payments 2,362 times from May 2008 to January 2009 and hired people to drive two trucks to transport sand and stone, earning some 200,000 yuan during that period, the court said.
He was fined 2 million yuan and his illegal revenue confiscated, according to the court verdict.
But the court said on its website on Friday that authorities had questioned the convicted farmer again as the case had "triggered media attention and heated debate".
The elder Shi claimed to have been manipulated by a relative, and as this new evidence may change the verdict, the court decided to hold another trial, said Liu Penghua, director of the political department of the court.
The Henan Provincial Higher People's Court said at a news conference on Sunday that the life sentence was based on insufficient evidence and suggested dropping the charges against the elder Shi. Two judges in charge of the trial have been temporarily removed from their posts.
The court of Pingdingshan on Sunday also suggested the prosecuting authorities drop the charges against him due to the major twist in the case.
The Beijing News reported that the younger Shi signed an agreement with two Armed Police officers stating he should pay 1.2 million yuan to the two officers each year for free toll passes.
Shi should also pay 5,000 yuan a month to the two heads of the tollgate on the Zhengzhou-Yaoshan Highway where Shi's trucks passed through every day, according to the agreement.
But Jin Yuwei, assistant to the general manager of the Pingdingshan Branch of the Henan Zhongyuan Expressway Co Ltd said internal investigations had found that the two tollgate heads were clean.
(China Daily 01/17/2011 page3)