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Local hero may be top criminal
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-18 06:11

An entrepreneur in Shenzhen who has been worshipped by the poor and needy in his hometown for his generous financial support may have been revealed as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Chen Yifeng has been accused of illegally collecting 160 million yuan (US$19.3 million) over a period of 11 years.

One of the main ways he allegedly did this was by subletting market stalls that belonged to the government. He is said to have done this in several major markets in the city.

He also built on government land and collected money from tenants.

The case, allegedly concerning the largest criminal organization on the Chinese mainland, was heard for the first time yesterday in Luohu District Court in Shenzhen.

Chen was also a former member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of Guangdong Province, a consultative body to local government.

He and 24 other key members of his "mafia" group are also accused of taking property by force, confronting policemen, attacking local residents and hiding criminals, according to the indictment.

Before Chen was brought into custody in April 2004, he was crowned one of the top entrepreneurs supporting the poor. From 1995, he gave a lot of financial aid to poor people in his hometown of Luoding in western Guangdong.

However, it is alleged that Chen conducted his businesses in a less glamorous way.

Starting as a construction and drainage worker in Shenzhen, Chen launched a small company in 1993 and opened a construction materials market one year later.

In the decade that followed, it is alleged, Chen and his group expanded his business by force. They are said to have used axes, iron rods and fire extinguishers to beat rivals in local markets and shopping centres in the downtown area.

According to the indictment, Chen's mafia group consisted of hundreds of "security guards" who allegedly beat and injured 300 local residents and five policemen.

For example, in July 2000, 40 men in white shirts and black trousers from Chen's company brandishing steel helmets, iron sticks and axes, are accused of rushing into a shopping centre in Luohu District, driving all the staff out and occupying the building.

According to a local newspaper, Chen's group beat a policewoman and chopped off an epaulette on her uniform.

The court will hear the case again today, tomorrow and on Friday.

(China Daily 05/18/2005 page3)

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