China sentences four to death over mine murder scams

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A court in northern China sentenced four people to death for murder, fraud and blackmail in a case involving fake mining accidents, a report said Thursday.

The Intermediate People’s Court of Yangquan City in Shanxi province convicted four men of killing three people between 2009 and 2011 in private coal mines, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The men found co-conspirators to pose as relatives of the deceased to claim compensation from mine owners. They collected more than 890,000 yuan (139,107 dollars), the report said.

In September, a court in Ningxia in north-west China sentenced five people to death after they were found guilty of killing five miners to swindle compensation from mine managers.

State media have reported similar murders at mines for at least a decade as scammers tried to take advantage of the fact that some mine owners wanted to cover up accidents to avoid investigations by work safety authorities.

Director Li Yang’s film Blind Shaft, which won a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2003, featured two men who travelled around coal mines trying to claim compensation after killing strangers.

Genuine accidents kill thousands of people annually in Chinese mines, most of them at coal mines. The accidents are often triggered by outdated equipment and poor safety measures.

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