Chinese wine smuggler sentenced to life in prison

Sun Xitai, a 62-year-old businessman in China has been sentenced to life in prison. His crime? Bringing about $7 million worth of wine, mostly Bordeaux, from Hong Kong to mainland China and failing to pay sufficient duty.

You can get the whole story in an interesting post on Bordeaux Undiscovered. The post cites China’s Legal Daily saying that 70 percent of imported red wine is smuggled, which seems a staggering amount. Travelers from Hong Kong to China are allowed to bring one liter of wine or spirits legally.

While I don’t know the details of this case and how much was imported when, but it does seem odd that the period involved is 2004-2009. After all, Hong Kong scrapped wine duty in only in 2008; before that it was higher than the mainland, where the duties total about 50 percent of the imported price. So this harsh punishment may be more to set an example to curtail such activities.

He had this final comment about the duties: “It would be difficult to stay in business if I went through official channels.”

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10 Responses to “Chinese wine smuggler sentenced to life in prison”


  1. Bordeaux is not worth an afternoon in a patrol car let alone life in prison.
    Geez, that’s a tough sentence. What a way to give away the remainder of one’s life.


  2. Finally a place with stupider wine laws than Maryland! I hope they don’t get any ideas here.
    Puritanism and crony capitalism. It’s a constant struggle.


  3. Sad that a man trying to bring a little liquid joy to China will spend the rest of his life in prison for not giving China their “cut”. Sounds like Cosa Nostra. I hope an international outcry will aide his cause. Doubtful, but I’d like to hope.


  4. Wow! They don’t mess about over there, do they!?!?
    I’ve been making and bottling my own counterfeit “Screaming Eagle” in my bathtub, and selling it without paying taxes. I guess all good things must come to an end…


  5. One word: insane.


  6. Jack, Yes, a lot of time for the crime of Bordeaux. If it were Burgundy, however..

    Quizicat – funny!

    Lisa – Somehow I doubt that Mr. Sun will become a cause celebre for excessive punishment.

    Kris – Yes, if the authorities are cracking down on tax evasion, perhaps counterfeiting be next? The LA Times had a story about the extent of counterfeiting in China the other day:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/14/business/la-fi-china-counterfeit-wine-20120115


  7. Wow. Stiff sentence. It’s sort of ironic that he’s not going to prison for the actual counterfeiting, he’s going to prison for not giving the Chinese government their cut!


  8. China believes its ok to counterfeit and steal US property rights and movies but not ok for a person to import wine. So there solution is to let hackers go free and to sentence a wine importer to life imprison. Just from an economic stand point, the wine importer was paying some taxes, the hackers pay none. I think I would cut a deal with the wine importer and put away the hackers or make them pay some sort of tax.


  9. […] From Dr. Vino: "Sun Xitai, a 62-year-old businessman in China has been sentenced to life in prison… [for] bringing about $7 million worth of wine from Hong Kong to mainland China and failing to pay sufficient duty.” […]


  10. Finally a place with stupider wine laws than Maryland! I hope they don’t get any ideas here.


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