Antigua: Chinese national jailed for burning down popular supermarket

March 31, 2023 in Regional

AChinese national by the name of Tianzhao “Alex” Feng will be spending the next year, two months and eight days in a prison cell in Antigua for burning down a popular supermarket.

XPZ supermarket, a store which sold everything from food to clothes, was burned to the ground in the early hours of June 1 2021, after which time the accused disappeared.

Feng was apprehended several days later and subsequently charged with arson.

The 30-year-old had been in the country illegally working at the department store.

After his first court appearance back in June 2021 it was discovered that the foreigner did not have his passport and that his time in the country had expired.

He was therefore denied bail and he spent quite some time in His Majesty’s prison waiting for his arraignment.

In February 2023, he was arraigned in his native language and he told the court in English that he did in fact burn down the large building.

The court was provided with a social inquiry report prior to the sentencing hearing and it revealed that the accused came to Antigua in 2017 for a better life as a result of arrangements made between his uncle and the owner of the supermarket.

He was made to sign a contract which he did not read in its entirety and his passport was taken away.

But Feng’s account of his time working at the establishment was likened to human trafficking by his lawyer Wendel Robinson.

The report detailed physical abuse, squalid living conditions that caused his health to deteriorate, long work hours and very little pay.

According to the defendant he was also owed money and sometime before lighting the building on fire he had a discussion with his boss about his health and finances and as a result of the unfavourable response he was given, he became angry.

It was said that he did not intend to destroy the entire store and its contents which the proprietors say are worth about $10 million EC.

Justice Ann-Marie Smith in her sentencing considered Feng’s working and living situation as well as the fact that he had been on remand for almost two years. That brought his sentence down from three years.

After being sentenced, Feng questioned what would happen after he served his time, telling the court that he did not wish to go back to China.

His lawyer offered to assist him in getting refugee status.