PINGDINGSHAN, Henan, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- A court in central China's Henan Province said Friday it would retry a farmer convicted of fraud and sentenced to life imprisonment for evading millions of yuan in expressway tolls.
The verdict may change because the defendant has indicated he had accomplices, said Liu Penghua, director of the political department of the Pingdingshan Municipal Intermediate People's Court.
Shi Jianfeng was convicted of fraud Tuesday for evading 3.68 million yuan (558,000 U.S. dollars) of expressway tolls.
"Shi said during an inquiry Thursday night he was manipulated by a relative," said Liu.
Shi used fabricated military drivers licenses and mounted fake military license plates on his two trucks, the Pingdingshan Municipal Intermediate People's Court said.
The case drew attention and controversy on the Internet, with some saying the life-imprisonment sentence was too harsh and that expressway tolls are exorbitant. Tollgate records show Shi's two trucks used to transport sand and gravel avoided tolls 2,362 times in the nine months between May 2008 and Jan. 2009. The average toll each time would have been 1,558 yuan (236 dollars).
Excessive tolls are due to "frequent and extravagant" overloading of trucks, said Xi Zongming, general manager of the Pingdingshan Branch of the Henan Zhongyuan Expressway Co., Ltd.
Shi said in court he earned about 200,000 yuan (30,300 dollars) from the transportation of the sand and gravel.
The court also fined Shi 2 million yuan (303,000 dollars) and deprived him of his political rights for life.