A group of hitmen have been jailed after repeatedly trying to subcontract a job to each other in Guangxi, China.
Businessman Tan Youhui hired a hitman to “take out” his competitor for $282,000 (£218,000), a court heard.
But the hitman hired another man to do the job, offering $141,000. That man hired another hitman, who hired another hitman, who hired another hitman.
The plan crumbled when the final hitman met the man, named only as Wei, in a cafe and proposed faking his death.
All six men – the five hitmen and Tan – were convicted of attempted murder by the court in Nanning, Guangxi, following a trial that lasted three years.
The saga of the subcontracted hitmen dates back to a professional dispute in 2013, when Mr Wei took legal action against Tan’s firm, the Nanning Intermediate People’s Court said on its website.
Scared of losing money fighting a lengthy court case, Tan contacted hitman Xi Guangan and offered him ¥2m ($282,000) to kill Mr Wei.
Xi accepted the job but shortly afterwards asked another hitman, Mo Tianxiang, to kill Mr Wei instead, offering him ¥1m. After Mo accepted, Xi renegotiated with Tan to be paid another ¥1m after the killing.
But Mo in turn contacted another man, Yang Kangsheng, who agreed to carry out the killing for an upfront fee of ¥270,000, with another ¥500,000 to be paid afterwards.
Yang Kangsheng then offered another hitman, Yang Guangsheng, ¥200,000 to assassinate Mr Wei, also with a bonus of ¥500,000 after completion.
Finally, the chain came to an end when Yang Guangsheng offered a fifth hitman, Ling Xiansi, ¥100,000 to kill Mr Wei.
Instead of carrying out the murder, Ling met up with Mr Wei in a cafe, told him there was a hit on him and proposed a plan – that the two of them fake the murder.
Mr Wei agreed to pose, gagged and bound, for a photo that Ling could take back to Yang Guangsheng – before later reporting the case to the police.
The case initially went to trial in 2016, but the six defendants were acquitted due to a lack of evidence. Prosecutors appealed against the decision, and the second trial lasted three years.