Female Sanitation Worker Found 3 Million Worth of Gold Jewelry, Could Face Life Sentence

| May 27th, 2009

20090526-cleanning-worker-gold-01

From QQ:

A controversial case appeared in Shenzhen: an Shenzhen airport cleaning worker Liang Li who makes only thousands monthly salary accidently “picked up” a case of more than 3 million yuan worth of gold jewelry next to the trash can. Liang may be prosecuted for theft, if convicted due to huge amount Liang faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Liang Li, who is 40 years old from Kaifeng, Henan province. She works for a cleaning company, and is responsible for cleaning airport terminal B building lobby. Last year December 9th morning, Liang is doing her cleaning work for the lobby. When she walked to gate 19, she saw two lady passengers were eating sun flower seeds next to a trash can, between them there is a luggage cart, and a small cardboard box on top of the luggage cart. After 5 6 minutes, two passengers left in the hurry to the gate.

When Liang Li came back to gate 19 trash can for the second time, the small cardboard box is still sitting on top of the luggage cart. She thought the box was left behind on purpose, so she picked up the box and put it into her cleaning cart and kept on working.

About 9 o’clock, Liang told her co-worker, she found a little cardboard box, and there might be batteries inside, she put it in the handicapped restroom first, will give it back if someone claims it. After, Liang Li and other cleaning workers had breakfast together, and she told them about the box as well.

Two other cleaners Ma and Cao went to the restroom and opened the box. They found out there are bags and bags of gold jewelry inside the box. Two of them took 2 bags out split the jewelry and left. When it is almost time to get off work Cao told Liang that there might be gold jewelry inside the box. Liang did not believe, she took out one piece and let her co worker Han Ying took to the gold jewelry store to ask. Han came back and told Liang that this piece is the same as the one they sold in the store. Liang thought Han was joking, took the box home after work. Same day at 6 pm, two policemen went to Liang’s home. Liang took out the box from under her bed and gave it to them. The police took Liang Li’s entire family to the police station.

Apparently, same day at 9 am a man named Wang Tenyei filed a report to the police. He works for a jewelry store in Dongguan. Around 8 am in the morning when he was going to check in the box at gate 19, the airport staff told him that he cannot check in luggage that is too valuable. So he went to counter # 10 which is 22 meters away from counter #19 to ask for more information and left the 14 kilograms of gold jewelry behind on the luggage cart next to the trash can. 10 minutes later, after Wang came back he notice the box is not there anymore.

That night, the airport police found that a total of 13.4 kilograms of pure gold in the box worth 2.89 million in RMB; also recovered gold jewelry from Cao and Ma they worth over 100,000 yuan and 60,000 yuan.

At present, Liang’s case has been most controversial. She can be prosecuted for illegal misappropriation or theft. There is a huge difference between the two. For illegal possession, the maximum sentence is imprisonment of 5 years. If prosecuted for theft, due to the large amount, the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or even death.

The court is yet to determine the appropriate crime to indict Liang. It has been 5 month since the incident Liang has not been indicted yet.

From QQ on May 12, 2009 04:03

The publication of the article, "Sanitation Worker “Picked up” 14 Kilograms Gold Jewelry May be Prosecuted", has caused the huge disturbance in the society. Each major website reprinted it at an eye-catching spot. Very many websites opened the net friend voting to let the net friends make their opinions known. Up to yesterday, more than 600,000 netizens voted that Liang Li’s behavior was not stealing. In all voting websites, Liang Li’s support level achieves above 90%, but some netizens thought that Liang Li should accept legal sanction.

Yesterday, the reporter interviewed Liang Li’s husband Liu Jianhua again, and hoped to find out some information about Liang Li’s condition from him. Liu Jianhua’s eyes turned red immediately when mentioned his wife again. In his words, he revealed he’s worrying about his wife’s mental condition.

In recent six months, Liu Jianhua has not seen his wife. Only Liang Li’s attorney Si Xianli has contacted Liang Li. Si Xianli recalled that Liang Li’s emotion was very exited and very unstable when met with her, but she should have no mental problems.

In recent six months, Liu Jianhua has repeatedly sent money to the detention center for Liang Li. Liu Jianhua hoped that it could let Liang Li feel at ease, and let Liang Li know that the family is ok.

Jinlong Jewelry is not willing to make any response. To randomly place 14 kilograms gold at where had no one to watch it, so didn’t Wang Tengye bear some fault? Did Wang Tengye look for it right the way after discovered the article got lost? Will Dongguan Jinlong Jewelry Company, Ltd file official charges against Liang Li and people who were involved in this case?

Regarding the above questions, yesterday the reporter called Jinlong Corporation two times. A male staff from the company answered the call and indicated explicitly that many staffs knew about the lost 14 kilograms gold jewelry at Shenzhen Airport “regained”. However, the leaders of the company were out of town on a business trip, so they couldn’t express their stands.

Regarding the reporter’s request to interview Jinlong Corporation lawyers, this staff indicated that the company lawyers were holding a meeting and it was inconvenient for them to answer the call. He said, “Our company has many people and many departments. Wang Tengye is not in our department, so you just wait for our leaders to come back to interview them.” He also refused to provide the report with Wang Tengye’s contact information.

Although this staff promised to contact the relevant leaders to be interviewed, to the time of sending out this article, the reporter has not received Jinlong Corporation’s call.

Cleaning up trash cans is a sanitation worker’s responsibility. Was sanitation workers picking up whatever articles that passengers couldn’t bring on airplanes a frequent behavior?

Shenzhen Airport staff indicated that for these articles which couldn’t be brought on planes by passengers, the airport would provide passengers with the reserve service for a limited time. If no one picked up the articles exceeding the time limit, then the airport would deal with the articles.

The staff told the reporter that these articles were not dealt with casually. The sanitation workers were the outsourcing service, and would not participate in dealing with these articles.
However, this staff also affirmed to the reporter that cleaning up trashes in the trash cans in the waiting hall was within the sanitation workers’ duty range. Some passengers threw items like water, cosmetics, and snacks into the trash cans.

Zhongshan University Law School renowned professor Lu Ying indicated, “I have seen issues of moral deficiency and system flaw, I only haven’t seen the issue of criminal offense. Therefore, giving Liang Li a slight administrative penalty should be enough.” Professor Lu also said, “At present from my understanding of the case, and looking from the criminal law angle, Liang Li’s behavior doesn’t constitute larceny. Processing trashes in the trash cans is within Liang Li’s duty range. From the civil law angle, Liang Li’s behavior constitutes coveting a small profit, and having the profit improperly. The owner of the lost articles should file charges for these, which are not in the criminal law category. I believe to give Liang Li a slight administrative penalty should be enough.”

Professor Lu indicated that Liang’s case demonstrated a kind of moral deficiency and the system flaw of the airport, and the litigant’s lacking of legal awareness. Moreover, from the moral aspect, after finding such an expensive article, Liang Li should first return the lost article to its owner instead of taking it home. From the system aspect, the airport has not completed the standard for the sanitation workers disposing trashes, and has allowed the sanitation workers to take the trashes away, which became a kind of habit. These flaws should be corrected promptly.

At the forum, most netizens have expressed their sympathies to the janitor’s bitter experience.

Netizen dayoo654530: This was not stealing, and was not a robbery either, this was an accident. She took valuables home was for the safety of the articles and her own responsibility, because now many people in the society were not trustable. Moreover she was only a sanitation worker; of course she didn’t quite know about the law. Also, after picked it up, she didn’t open it, but her co-worker opened it. From this point, her behavior was not stealing.

Netizen octoberfox2: According to the law, the female sanitation worker should be sentenced to life imprisonment. The purpose is to warn people not to covet anything not theirs.

Some attorneys think whether the case constitutes larceny depending on if the small paper box was still in its owner’s control area, and if Liang Li “had the goal of wrongful possession”. If the paper box was in its owner’s control area can be proven, then Liang Li took the paper box away which constitutes “secret stealing”. If Liang Li knew perfectly well inside the paper box was gold and still took it away, then it was “the goal of wrongful possession”, and it constituted the larceny.

A netizen from Wuhan thinks: “Everybody sympathizes with the weak one. Perhaps looking from the legal angle, the female worker can’t run away from the legal responsibility, because she knew in the box was gold, and still took the box home. From the work unit’s stipulation, anything she found should give it to the airport.”

A Hefei’s netizen thinks: “the sanitation worker was an internal staff. Even if she found something, she should turn it over to the authority promptly, but she shouldn’t take it home. When she discovered that it was worth 3,000,000 Yuan gold jewelry, more so she shouldn’t embezzle it. It naturally constituted the crime offence.”

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