Monday, September 29, 2008

Chinese man sentenced to prison for faking tiger photos

Zhou Zhenglong, the farmer who shocked the country with his fake photo of the endangered South China tiger, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on Saturday in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

The Xunyang County People's Court also fined him 2,000 yuan after convicting him of fraud.

The trial lasted from 08:30 a.m. to 03:10 p.m.

According to the court, Zhou, 54, a farmer in Zhenping County, heard he might get an award of more than 100,000 yuan if he could take pictures of a wild South China tiger. It is a subspecies that has not been seen for years.

Zhou came up with the idea of faking tiger photos for the prize.

On Oct. 3, 2007, he shot 62 photos of a tiger from a poster which he put amid foliage.

The provincial forestry department announced the news to the public on Oct. 12 and rewarded Zhou with 20,000 yuan .

But doubts arose immediately on the Internet, after netizens found an old Lunar New Year commemorative poster showing a tiger that resembled the photo.

Police arrested Zhou in June after seizing an old tiger poster, which Zhou allegedly used to produce his photos. They also found a wooden model of tiger claw and 93 bullets in his home.

In late June, the Shaanxi provincial government held a press conference to announce the truth, saying Zhou's photos were fake.

According to testimony of Zhou's son, Zhou Song, his father once made him look for tiger posters and asked whether they could be used to take pictures. The son said no. After the tiger photos came out, Zhou Song knew his father had fabricated them.

During court session, Zhou Zhenglong claimed no one else participated in the scheme.

Zhou's defense attorneys believe bad publicity from the case should not be blamed on Zhou himself, saying the "cursory releasing of the news by relevant departments" helped spread the scam.

Zhou did not say he would appeal immediately after sentencing.

Thirteen government staff in Shaanxi were sacked or warned for the scam.

Source: Xinhua

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