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Lucky 8 license plate lands 5 Chinese in jail

Accomplices beat off others who tried to use machine

A “lucky” license plate turned out not to be so lucky for five men who were jailed in Beijing for up to 16 months for fighting over the plate that ended in four eights, China's traditional number for good fortune.

The men allegedly armed themselves with knives and clubs and beat anyone who came near a machine issuing new license plate numbers at a Beijing vehicle registration center, the state-owned Beijing News reported Tuesday.

Several people were injured, one of them seriously.

The incident occurred in July last year as plates with "8888" as the last four digits were about to be issued, the report said.

The ringleader, identified only as Xu, had lined up four cars for new plates and paid his four accomplices a total of 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to guard the machine and ensure he got the numbers he wanted, it said.

A Beijing court ordered the five to pay 55,000 yuan ($8,054) in compensation to their victims, the paper said.

Crazy amounts paid

This is not by any means the most paid for a license plate. In 2005 a Hong Kong man paid the equivalent of $910,000 for a license plate with the number “12,” which sounds like “certainly easy” in Cantonese.

A decade before that another Cantonese man paid $4 million for a plate with just “9,” a number that sounds like “everlasting” when pronounced.

But the record for the most paid for a license plate was in the United Arab Emirates, where a 25-year-old Emirati paid 52.2 million dirhams ($14 million) at an auction last year for a plate with just the number “1.”

He broke the previous records set by oil-rich kingdom for plates with the numbers "5" and "7" that sold for 25 million dirhams ($6.75 million) and 11 million dirhams ($2.97 million) respectively.

(With AFP)