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Eight arrested over tourist scam

Eight people are detained and two jade shops shut down over a scam in which tourists were sold fake jade products near the Badaling Great Wall.

Haidian police said the fraud was first reported in early November after a tourist on a one-day Great Wall and Ming Tombs tour group bought fake jade.

Police said the suspects worked with a tour agency and used an elaborate scheme to con travelers.

First, the tour guide asked travelers to get off their coach on their way back to the city, under the pretext that the vehicle needed to be sterilized. When travelers were following their guide to rest in a store, staff started to convince them to buy jade products.

Second, the shop owner would pretend to be owner of a jewelry store in Hong Kong and say that his Beijing wife just gave birth to twins. He would give some jade "gifts" priced at nearly 1,000 yuan to each traveler and said they shared his good fortune. He claimed to be a jade expert and said the jade in his store was of good quality.

The products were labeled as originally from Myanmar or as the Beijing special local product "Ming Tombs Jade", and many were priced at 980,000 yuan.

He said that due to the "good luck" brought by the new twin babies, all customers could receive a 5 percent discount.

Haidian police said all those jade products from the shop are fake and made out of stone dust. The free "gift" priced 998 yuan cost only 0.4 yuan, and the real cost of the products priced at 180,000 yuan is only 4 yuan.

"There are many unregistered travel agencies in Beijing doing the one-day tour business," said an official surnamed Zhu from the Beijing municipal bureau of tourism.

"They keep spreading their business cards around popular sites or in the hotels where tourists usually stay.

"The cost for a Great Wall-Ming Tombs trip is between 200 yuan to 240 yuan, but these illegal travel agencies only ask for about 70 yuan.

For example, they brought those travelers to parts of the Great Wall that do not require a ticket to cut costs. And they only spend two hours in those places and ask travelers to visit jewelry shops or to see doctors for the rest of time."

Zhu said that travelers should purchase day trips from the tourism bureau because many people are ripped off on the cheaper, illegal versions.