Source AP ©

Two Chinese students to spend 18 years in New Zealand prison for kidnap, slaying

Two Chinese students were sentenced to 18 ½ years in New Zealand prison for kidnapping and killing their fellow student.

Cui Xiangxin and Li Zheng, both 22, were found guilty by a jury in October of kidnapping and murdering Wan Biao, 19, in April 2006, and seeking a ransom from his family. Wang Yuxi, also 22, was acquitted of murder charges but found guilty of kidnapping Wan.

Judge John Priestley sentenced Wang to three years and nine months in prison. The court also accepted Wang's offer to pay 25,000 New Zealand dollars (US$19,300; EUR 13,200) in amends to Wan's family in China. A fourth Chinese student defendant was acquitted in the case.

The victim's dismembered body was found in a floating suitcase in a harbor in Auckland in April 2006.

Defense lawyers did not dispute that the kidnapping occurred, but maintained their clients did not originally intend to kill the victim.

Justice Priestley condemned the trio's crimes, calling them chilling, calculated and cruel.

"Your greed for money led you to hatch this plan," he told the court.

The three came from backgrounds that would be regarded as privileged in China, he said. In New Zealand to study, they had fallen into "cyber sloth," spending much of their time playing computer games and watching DVDs, the judge added.

The three convicted men will be deported to China after they serve their prison terms.

During a five-week trial in the High Court, prosecutors alleged that Cui and Li kidnapped and killed Wan, who was from Yiwu in China's Zhejiang province.

His body was stuffed in a black vinyl suitcase, along with bloodstained towels, plastic rubbish bags, two saws and a knife, and dumped in Waitemata Harbor in Auckland on April 14, 2006.

Police said he died from strangulation.

A ransom demand for 800,000 New Zealand dollars (US$526,000; EUR 410,000) was made to Wan's parents in China at the time. Police said no money was handed over. Instead, Wan's mother in China alerted friends, who subsequently contacted New Zealand police. By that time Wan's body had been found by sailors in the harbor.

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