Chinese police snuff out fake prison

Time of article published Jan 27, 2004

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Beijing - The sign said it was a prison and those inside weren't allowed out. But Chinese police say the building was really something else - a disguised factory that made counterfeit cigarettes.

Investigators who raided the factory in the western city of Meishan found 117 tons of tobacco and 565 cartons of smokes with 20 brand names, the official Xinhua News Agency said on Tuesday.

The nameplate read The No. 1 Block of the Xinkang Prison of Sichuan Province - which is the name of a real prison elswhere in the province, Xinhua said. Inside were cigarette-making workshops and dormitories.

"Workers were treated like prisoners, as they were not allowed to go out and had to stay in the 'factory' round the clock," the report said.

Xinhua said two people were arrested, but didn't say how many people worked in the factory.

Counterfeiting cigarettes under foreign and Chinese brand names is a huge industry in China, which has more than 300 million smokers. The counterfeiters are believed to cost the treasury billions of yuan a year in lost taxes. - Sapa-AP

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