News/US: 6 Chinese nationals indicted in Savannah smuggling scheme

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Subject: News/US: 6 Chinese nationals indicted in Savannah smuggling scheme
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Sun Oct 03 1999 - 09:33:11 EDT


Many of those brought in ended up in trafficking situations.

melanie..

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6 Chinese nationals indicted in Savannah smuggling scheme
Mark Bixler
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 23, 1999

A grand jury indicted six Chinese nationals Wednesday in the most elaborate
human smuggling operation uncovered in recent Georgia history.

Federal authorities, meanwhile, said they are investigating the possibility
that a foreign government played a role in the smuggling.

"There is more involvement than what there appeared to be. We're looking
into other entities --- private and public," said Thomas Fischer, district
director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Atlanta. "I'm
quite optimistic that we are going to unravel a very unusual, bizarre,
sophisticated smuggling oper- ation."

He declined to say which governments his agency is investigating.

Federal agents in Savannah found 132 Chinese men and boys on Aug. 12 in a
secret compartment of the Prince Nicolas, a 42,000-ton freighter. On
Wednesday, a grand jury indicted three crew members and three "stowaways."
Each is charged with conspiracy to smuggle and conceal aliens, unlawfully
bringing aliens to the United States for commercial advantage and
concealing and harboring illegal aliens, said Dan Drake, a spokesman for
the U.S. Attorney's Office in Savannah.

Authorities say the trade in smuggling people from China has exploded into
a multibillion-dollar business this decade. They say organized crime groups
control much of the trade. Once in the United States or other countries,
many immigrants work for years in poor conditions to repay their debt to
smugglers known as "snakeheads."

An INS agent testified on Sept. 1 that the immigrants on the Prince Nicolas
each paid $ 40,000 to $ 49,000 for a trip to the United States.

Most smuggled Chinese go to New York City, but saturation of the labor
market there has sent some to Atlanta and other places. Authorities have
uncovered smuggling operations recently in California, Canada, Georgia,
Guam, Japan, the Northern Mariana Islands, Midway Islands, New Jersey, New
York and Washington state.

Drake identified the indicted crew members as Zhang Zhi Zhong, 31, the
captain; Shi Ya Dong, 58, the chief engineer; and Sun Cheng, 36, a "cabin
boy. " Drake said the "stowaways" indicted are Zheng Huan Jian, 25; Zheng
Xiao, 34; and Li Guo Guan, whose age was unavailable.

Authorities say the "stowaways" facing charges conspired with the crew to
take the immigrants to the United States.

Melanie Orhant
morhant@igc.org
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