Lucky 8 number plates land 5 men in jail

Supposedly "lucky" number plates turned out not to be so lucky for five men who were jailed in Beijing for up to 16 months for fighting over the number plates which end 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 number plates 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 the number plates with the digits "8888" as the last four digits were about to be issued.

The leader of the gang, identified only as Xiao, had lined up four cars for new number plates and paid his four accomplices a total of 20,000 yuan ($2,600) to guard the machine thus ensuring he got the number plates he wanted.

A Beijing court ordered the five to pay 6,000 yuan ($8,500) in compensation to their victims, the paper said.

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

A decade before that another Cantonese man paid $4 million for number plates with just "9" a number that the phonetic sound of"everlasting".

But the record for the most paid for number plates 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 plates with just the number "1".

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

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