BEIJING (AP) — A court in northern China has sentenced four people to be executed over the deaths of coal miners who were slain in a plot to collect compensation.
The four were found guilty of battering to death three miners with clubs and hammers from 2009 to 2011, Wang Jiyuan, chief justice of the Intermediate Court in the Shanxi province city of Yangquan, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
They then found co-conspirators to pose as family members of the deceased to demand compensation from mine owners. Another five people were sentenced to prison for their parts in the killings, Wang said.
Mine owners would often prefer to hush-up such deaths with off-the-books payments to prevent being reported to the authorities and to avoid resulting fines or possible criminal charges.
Although rare, such scams were facilitated in the past by the carnage and chaos in China's mining industry, where thousands were killed annually. Safety improvements and a production decrease have significantly reduced deaths to about 1,000 per year.
In a similar case in July, another court in northern China upheld death sentences for five people who killed four miners and faked accidents at coal mines to claim compensation.
Mining competition scams formed much of the plot of the 2003 Chinese film "Blind Shaft," which won the Silver Bear prize at the Berlin Film Festival.