In China the extremely wealthy can avoid prison terms by hiring body doubles.
A new report from Slate's Geoffrey Sant points to an incident when a wealthy Chinese youth who killed a 25-year old engineer while speeding, hired a body double to appear as him in court and serve out his three-year prison sentence.
What's more this isn't an isolated incident. Sant points to various other instances from Chinese media reports that show wealthy Chinese make employees falsely confess to crimes or hire "substitute criminals" to stand-in for them and serve out their prison sentences. From Sant:
"A police officer in central China agreed to discuss the phenomenon of “replacement convicts” with me so long as I didn’t refer to him by name. “America has the rule of law, but China has the rule of people,” the police officer told me. “If somebody is powerful, there’s a good chance they can make this happen. Spend some money and remain free.” According to the police officer, hired stand-ins are “not common but not rare either.” As examples, the officer listed several high-ranking mafia figures whose underlings serve time in their stead. The mafia cares for the substitute’s family and pays a bonus for the time served.
Sometimes, family members cover for each other. This is especially true in cases of traffic accidents, where the police may be able to identify the vehicle involved in the crime but not the driver. In one case, as seen in this highly graphic television segment showing a drunk driver plowing through an old man, the driver’s son admits he falsely “confessed” to the crime to prevent police from testing his father’s blood-alcohol level.
...Some imperial Chinese officials who admitted to the use of substitute criminals justified its effectiveness. After all, the real criminal was punished by paying out the market value of his crime, while the stand-in’s punishment intimidated other criminals, keeping the overall crime rate low. In other words, a “cap-and-trade” policy for crime."
And this isn't a new practice either, Sant points to historical precedents dating back to 1834 when western travelers wrote about criminal substitutes serving prison sentences and even being executed.