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03.2012

Massachusetts Beverage Business

archivedOnWineReport

SMUGGLERS TAKE HEED

  If you’re smuggling wine in China and get caught, don’t expect a slap on the wrist. A man has been given a life sentence for illegally importing millions of dollars of fine wine into China. Sun Xitai was convicted of forging invoices and import contracts to evade import duties on 7O,OOO bottles worth CNY45m (US$7.13m) between January 2OO4 and December 2OO9, the Beijing Times reported. Sun altered the name, details and price of high-end wines imported from France, Britain and Hong Kong, stating they were cheap alcohol. It is not clear which wines were imported, although one report said there were large amounts of Chateau Lafite, Latour and other blue-chip wines. In addition to wine, the report also said Sun imported high-end Nike and Adidas trainers, Oakley sunglasses and other luxury goods. Not one to learn his lesson, the 62-year-old businessman, who ran three Beijing companies, has already served a prison sentence for a separate offence in 2OO2. He said at his trial that the punitive tax rate of up to 5O% on wine left him no choice but to smuggle. Sun pleaded guilty but insisted his profits were only CNY4m (US$O.6m). His secretary, Meng Li, was sentenced to five years in prison and fined CNY2m for her involvement. Both have appealed.

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