SOURCE: NewsCO Ltd
Supermarket arsonist Tianzhao ‘Alex’ Feng has been released from prison earlier than expected – however, there are questions over his whereabouts with his attorney telling Observer he wasn’t aware of the move.
Feng, a Chinese national, pleaded guilty to arson in February after burning down the XPZ store in Sir Sydney Walling Highway in June 2021.
The fire destroyed the building and its contents, causing an estimated EC$10 million worth of damage, and putting nearly 60 people out of work.
Feng had, however, won public sympathy after court papers disclosed he had been subjected to inhumane working and living conditions, physical abuse and a pitiful salary, which Feng revealed were the motives for his actions.
The 33-year-old had been suffering from various medical complications apparently as a result of those dire conditions and had needed to seek medical attention.
Feng was sentenced in late March with the judge taking into account his guilty plea and his expression of remorse. With the almost two years he’d spent on remand, Feng had been due to spend another 14 months behind bars for the single count of arson.
However, Superintendent of Prisons, Colonel Trevor Pennyfeather, told Observer over the weekend that “Feng is discharged and was picked up by the immigration as is the norm for [foreign] individuals”.
It was unclear up to press time where immigration officials took Feng, but his legal representative Wendel Robinson told Observer that it was strange he hadn’t been informed about his client’s release and subsequent retrieval by immigration officials.
Robinson, who was overseas when Observer media contacted him, expressed concern for Feng’s safety.
Feng had travelled to Antigua in 2017, as part of an agreement with his uncle and the owner of the supermarket.
However, it was later revealed that Feng’s passport had been taken away from him after he was brought to Antigua and Barbuda from St Lucia.
Robinson had planned to request asylum for Feng after his client reported fears for his safety if he was deported back to China.
Robinson, during the sentencing hearing, called Feng a victim of human trafficking, referencing evidence presented during the trial and subsequent social inquiry report.
Justice Minister Steadroy Benjamin has been approached for comment.