Death Sentence Appeals of 14 Convicted Smugglers Uncertain
Secrecy surrounded the 6.6 billion dollar YuanHua smuggling case Monday, China's biggest corruption scam, with the highest court in southeastern Fujian province refusing to reveal if 14 death row prisoners had appealed their sentences.
"The situation of the appeals is not clear, the case is the responsibility of the special investigation group," an official at the Fujian Supreme People's Court told AFP.
On November 8, five local intermediate courts in Fujian sentenced 14 defendants to death in connection with the YuanHua case, that included customs and police officials.
According to China's criminal procedure law, judicial appeals must be lodged within 10 days of original sentencing.
Officials at intermediate courts last week also told AFP the case was being handled by the "420 special investigation group" and refused to confirm or deny whether the defendants had appealed.
The investigation group was set up on April 20, 1999 by the disciplinary organ of the Chinese Communist Party, which wields tremendous authority over the state judicial system, to investigate alleged smuggling by Lai Changxing, the head of the YuanHua group.
Lai was arrested in Canada last Thursday.
Court officials said the execution dates for those sentenced to death would also be up to the investigation group.
Some of China's highest leaders have been implicated in the case, including Beijing party boss and Politiburo member Jia Qinglin, but so far the highest officials publicly tried and sentenced have been local and provincial leaders.
The investigation of the case has been shrouded in secrecy with the Hong Kong Ming Pao daily saying a directive issued by the party propaganda bureau has prohibited mainland newspapers and news organs from independently reporting on the case.
Papers can only use reports on the case issued by the official Xinhua news agency, it said.
Lai's arrest in Canada last Thursday was only reported in the English-language China Daily on Monday, while other Chinese-language newspapers ignored the arrest -- BEIJING (AFP)
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