One of the interesting things about the exposure our China lawyers get from this blog is that we get contacted by all sorts of people with China law problems. This is mostly good because it can lead to real work. This is also good because even when it does not lead to real work, it provides great blog fodder. Like today.
A while ago (I am going to be really vague on everything here for obvious reasons) I got an email from someone whose relative had been arrested in China on a criminal law violation. The email went something (again, I am changing things to hide any potential identifier, but the gist is there) like this:
A family member was doing business with China as a middle man. He was getting his goods from all over Europe and the United States and then selling them in China. They turned out to be fakes. Without knowing this, he went to China on other business and some of the businesses that got the fakes from him had him arrested. There is no way to reach the people that sold the fake goods to him and the prosecutor is demanding we compensate everyone for all their losses. He is now going to be tried in a Chinese court and if he cannot provide the money to pay back the victims he will be incarcerated. Is there anything we can do to bring him home?
I responded with something like the following:
We would need to know a lot more about the situation to know how best to handle it. We would certainly need to know a lot more to be able to make even the roughest predictions regarding the likelihood of being able to keep him out of jail.
1. Is your family member a US citizen?
2. Has he contacted the US Embassy or a consulate?
3. Does he speak Chinese?
4. Has he retained a Chinese lawyer?
5. Do you know the exact charges being made against him?
6. Does your family member have evidence showing he did not know he was selling fakes? This may or may not be relevant, as it may depend on the actual charges being made against him. My law firm has handled a number of counterfeit cases and one of the best proofs is oftentimes that the person (your family member) paid an amount that indicates he thought the goods were real. For example, if he paid $100 for an item and then resold it for $1000, that would not be good. but if he paid $950 and resold it for $1000, that would certainly help.
7. In what city in China is this happening?
We can definitely assist you on this, but the key is to move quickly and decisively. Anything your family member says could end up hurting him. We have worked closely with Chinese criminal lawyers on international criminal matters and we would work with the appropriate one on this case to do everything we could to get your family member released. Our assistance would be focused on finding the right Chinese criminal lawyer, on helping that lawyer, especially with any relevant facts outside China, and in working as a bridge between your family member and the Chinese criminal lawyer and between you and the Chinese criminal lawyer. But our assistance is not going to be cheap because we are not going to take a case like this on without first getting a green light to do everything we can to prevail.
If you are interested in proceeding, let’s talk more. If not, I completely understand and I wish you and your family member the best.
So far, so good…. right?
Here was the emailer’s response to me:
He speaks Chinese and he already has a Chinese lawyer. He contacted the US embassy/consulate, who told him to retain a lawyer and he has had no further contact with them. His Chinese lawyer believes he is guilty. I’m interested solely in getting him out of China, without having to serve a prison sentence. I would be interested in proceeding only if this was possible.
My response to that was as follows:
Yeah sure. We can promise you that no matter how guilty he is, no matter how much proof there is against him, no matter where in China this is, and, most importantly, no matter what the charges are against him and no matter what the standard prison sentence is for those charges, we can get him out of China within a week.
We can do that one of the following two ways.
I will call up my President Obama and ask him to intervene. I would call Joe Biden, but I still have trouble getting past the fact that he got his law degree by cheating in law school. Hillary Clinton might also be good because and I have some cred built up with her (that’s a long story). Plus, both Barack and I started our careers in Chicago, so I am sure he will be sympatico. I do not know President Obama personally, but if I go to the White House, I’m sure he will see me and be happy to assist.
Alternatively, we could just bribe the prosecutor. But please understand that for that I will be putting my freedom and my career at extreme risk so that will cost you at least USD $2 million, which will not include the amount the Chinese attorney and prosecutor will require. If you do choose to go this route, please destroy all written evidence that I mentioned this to you.
I look forward to your response.
Okay, I admit it, that was the response I wanted to send but instead I just said something about how if they were interested in our assisting, we would be happy to do so, but there is absolutely no way we can make any guarantees on results and there are no magic bullets.
I have no idea what ended up happening with this guy. . . .