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Scam victims bid to reclaim stolen items
By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-13 06:13

CHENGDU: Victims of a scam involving rail police and a gang of thieves at the Chengdu Railway Station North in the capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province are set to be re-united with their money and belongings.

Last Monday, 11 railway policemen were jailed for colluding with thieves at the station.

An organization has now been set up to return stolen items after Ma Xinjian, the Chengdu railway police chief, said they would hand them over once they could identify the passengers who fell victim to the thieves.

The group will hold its first meeting this month and legal experts have also pledged to help passengers to get their goods back.

Huang Jun, from Anyue County in Sichuan, welcomed Ma's remarks. "I was very angry with the Chengdu railway police because they colluded with thieves," the 41-year-old high school teacher said.

"I lost 1,300 yuan (US$161) in the Chengdu Railway Station North last Spring Festival."

Like Huang, all the 20-strong members of the so-called compensation-seeking federation come from Sichuan and were targeted by thieves in the Chengdu Railway Station North.

"Members come from Chengdu, Mianyang, Meishan and Dazhou cities and Anyue County," Huang said.

Three law offices in Chengdu have promised to offer legal service to the members. Duan Junqiang, a lawyer from the Sichuan Zhongcheng Law Office, said that proof was needed to verify the members' loss of property in the Chengdu Railway Station North.

It is hoped that passengers whose money or belongings were stolen from the second half of 2000 to early this year could help lawyers collect evidence, he said.

Passengers who live in other parts of Sichuan could contact local law offices in their cities or counties to help them, said Zhang Qiang, one of the members of the federation.

From the second half of 2002 to early this year, 17 railway police officers in Chengdu Railway Station North were found to have turned a blind eye to law violations by a 16-member gang active at the site, and even offered them protection after receiving bribes, according to the Chengdu Railway Police Bureau.

Since last June, the gang began to deposit money directly into bank accounts rather than handing over cash directly to officers to try to avoid detection.

Between December, 2004 and this January, more than 80,000 yuan (US$9,600) was deposited in various accounts, it was discovered.

After the police-gang collusion was uncovered, nearly 240,000 yuan (US$29,000) of money was confiscated from the accused officers.

The probe was launched after a tip-off letter from a serviceman, the bureau said.

On January 10, the serviceman, who took a train from Chengdu to Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, found his wallet had been stolen in the railway station's lounge. It contained 1,800 yuan (US$217) in cash, a train ticket and some bank cards.

After reporting the case to the railway police, the serviceman was about to leave the station when he spotted a thief stealing someone's purse at the entrance of the lounge.

After grabbing the purse, the thief handed it and the wallet to a police officer on duty in the baggage office. One belonged to the serviceman.

The serviceman grabbed the thief and took him back to the office. While the officer on duty returned his wallet, he allowed the thief to leave. The angry serviceman sent a complaint letter to Chengdu Railway Police Bureau, suspecting that the policeman and thief were in cohorts

They started an investigation and, on February 23, found that some officers at the station were colluding with the gang, which is mainly composed of members from Yibin .

Eleven policemen from the Chengdu Railway Station North were sentenced to three to seven years in prison by the Guiyang Railway Court in Guiyang, capital of Southwest China's Guizhou Province last Monday.

(China Daily 12/13/2005 page3)

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