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Trouble means big business for gumshoes
( 2003-12-19 01:35) (China Daily)

"Fire, fire! Over there!" a guard at a warehouse storing fake products shouted.

While all the guards rushed out to put out the fire, Zheng Gang, a private investigator -- who had used white phosphorus to light a fire in a garbage can near the enclosure to slip past the heavily guarded entrance -- shot pictures of evidence in the warehouse.

"It is because of my evidence that the secret warehouse in Chaoshan of Guangdong Province was finally closed down,'' Zheng said in an interview with China Daily yesterday.

Zheng, at 1.75 metres and 70 kilograms, is an affable figure. As private investigator for nearly seven years, he has already had many successful cases using daring and skillful investigation techniques. They have come from experience of being an official with the local anti-corruption bureau.

"A career as a private investigator is like no other. Every day is an adventure with new challenges to meet, and new problems to solve,'' Zheng said yesterday at the 2003 Wanma China Business Investigation Conference in Hangzhou, the capital city of East China's Zhejiang Province.

About 150 private investigators, lawyers, officials and experts from across the country gathered together near the shore of West Lake to discuss the present situation and future of the investigative trade in China.

There are more than 700 investigative firms Companies legally registered with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce nowadays, according to Zheng.

Private investigating has grown rapidly in recent years and has widened its span to cover more areas of investigation than ever before, including commercial investigations, business feasibility studies and civil investigations.

"Each investigation company will have its own speciality. Some of them are good at protecting companies' intellectual property rights through cracking down on fake products, and others are famous for insurance fraud cases or obtaining legal evidence on cases involving estranged family members,''said Zhang Yongtu, an investigator from Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

"There are inherent risks and dangers in some aspects of private investigation. We do hope the investigators can get legal protection and proper recognition in China in the future,'' Zhang said.

He also showed his confidence in the future, saying more and more people involved in the profession here -- even foreign companies.

The appearances of some officials on the conference showed that the government has put great emphasis on this trade, Zhang added.

"There should be a criterion for the whole profession to follow since there is no licence for Chinese investigators and most of them used to be experienced public security officers,'' said Xu Yiping, who is a investigator from Jiaxin of Zhejiang Province.

Private Detective: Market promising

"The future of China's investigative market will be very very big not only because China is a big country but because the Chinese business potential in the world is also very big,'' said Ponno Kalastee, chairman of Council of International Investigators.

In 1993, the Ministry of Public Security banned private detective firms in China. On April 1 2002, the Supreme Court reversed that decision.

The court's move cleared the way for tape and video evidence acquired in secret. But the court made it clear that neither tape nor video could infringe on the legal rights of citizens and or be used in any way that violates the law, such as using a bug.

An association should be established in China to define what the profession is going to be before licences are issued and investigators ought to get together to share ideas with professionals at home and abroad, Ponno suggested.

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