Wine, gold and art are traditional investments made by wealthy Chinese but a new and growing investment has been taking flight in recent years — racing pigeons.

The pigeons are raised in lofts and when they are deemed ready,  taken hundreds of miles away and released. The first pigeon to fly back to his home, wins.

Two professional pigeon racers in China, who tried to cheat, have learned the lesson the hard way. They were given three years in jail for smuggling their animals on a bullet train to the competition’s finish line.

Two men, surnamed Gong and Zhang, entered four domesticated pigeons in the Shanghai Pigeon Association’s 16th annual Shanghai Pigeon Grand Prix for the chance to win cash prizes.

Later it was revealed that Gong and Zhang had devised an elaborate plot to win the race. The men trained the enhanced pigeons to find two designated pigeon sheds as their home, one in Shangqiu, Henan, close to the release point and another in Shanghai.

When the pigeons were released at the start of the race, they quickly flew to the home nearest to them, which was in Shangqiu. From there, the men smuggled the birds into milk cartons onto a bullet-train to Shanghai. When the men arrived in the city, they released the pigeons, which quickly fluttered to their Shanghai loft, giving the illusion that they had flown back all the way from the release point to their “home nest.

The two won the prize of 1.09 million yuan($160,00), although they reportedly declined to take it home after their win was questioned. Apparently, the two men had released the pigeons too soon from their Shanghai home nest. It takes a pigeon around 8 hours to fly from Shangqui to Shangui. However, the two smuggled pigeons made it to the finish line in just half that time since a bullet train takes only three hours and 18 minutes to travel the same distance.

Their competitors were doubtful about how the pigeons won the race. Gong and Zhang then started to lie about their birds dying or disappearing. According to the Shanghai court, the two men destroyed the evidence, killing the birds to prevent them from becoming stool pigeons.

A Shanghai court later found them guilty of fraud. The court also fined Gong 30,000 yuan and Zhang 20,000 yuan, adding that they also broke competition rules by using older pigeons instead of one-year-olds.

And if the two men had accepted the money, the court said, the fraud would have qualified as a much more serious crime and both men would have been liable to spend more than a decade in jail.


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