Sunday, January 16, 2011

Toll Road Life Sentence Update

Here is a more in depth article from Global Times.
A national scandal over a farmer who was sentenced to life in prison for evading millions of yuan in toll fees took a dramatic twist over the weekend.

The farmer, who had been convicted of faking military car plates in order to evade the fees, saw the ruling overturned by the Higher People's Court in Henan Province when it determined there was not enough evidence to convict him.

The announcement came amid a heated public debate over the severity of the punishment and a day after dramatic scenes that saw the man's younger brother turn himself in to police, asserting that the licenses had been purchased from local military personnel.

Shi Jianfeng, 43, from Yuzhou, Henan, had been sentenced by the Pingdingshan Intermediate People's Court in mid-December to life in prison for driving two of his trucks along the Zhengzhou-Yaoshan highway 2,361 times from May 2008 to January 2009, evading more than 3.68 million yuan ($557,800) in fees, as the vehicles had military plates.

Being a finance guy, the numbers still don't make sense to me. Assuming that both trucks were driven each day, then the average was ~4.4 trip per day per truck, with a toll fee of ~US$236 per trip. In addition, the driver had to pay 1.2 million RMB plus 5000 RMB per month to the police/military. What is he hauling that he can afford such hefty fees?

Even the article's numbers don't make sense.
The toll fee is 0.11 yuan per kilometer for ordinary trucks, according to Jin Yuwei from the Henan Highway Department.

But if found to be overloaded, the toll fee could be up to 15 times that of an empty truck, Jin said, saying a truck with 70 tons of cargo would have to pay about 2,700 yuan to travel 100 kilometers on the highway.

For 100 km trip, the toll fee should be 100 km x 0.11 yuan per km = 11 yuan. Even at 15x for an overloaded truck, the fee is 165 yuan... where did they get the 2700 yuan number? RMB2700 is ~$403. The most expensive toll (5 to 6 axle truck) for the 241 toll road in Orange County is ~$23 for a 40 km trip which scales to ~$60 for 100 km. However, the weight limit for a single vehicle in California is 80,000 lbs or ~40 tons... but still, a $400 toll fee for a 60 mile trip seems ridiculous. Somebody is getting ripped off.

Anyway, I've spent waaaaay too much time on this. It looks like there will be a retrial; hopefully they put the toll road "robber barons" and the military police that "sold" the plates on trial too.

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