Tan Youhui, a real estate developer, hired a hitman to kill a business rival for 2m yuan (£220,000), a court in Guangxi, China, heard.
However, the hitman then subcontracted the work to another hitman, who passed it on to another hitman, who apparently gave it to another hitman, who employed another hitman and who in turn engaged yet another hitman.
But instead of carrying out the hit, the final man met the ultimate intended victim, known by his last name Wei, and offered to help him fake his death.
All six men were convicted of intentional homicide and given prison sentences up to five years.
Events began in 2013 when Mr Wei filed a civil lawsuit against Tan’s company, according to the Nanning Intermediate People’s Court.
Concerned he could lose his money, Tan hired a contract killer named Xi Guangan to kill Mr Wei for 2m yuan (£220,000).
Xi then contracted another assassin, Mo Tianxiang, to carry out the hit, offering him 1m (£110,000) yuan upfront then 1m yuan on completion of the hit.
Mo subcontracted the work to Yang Kangsheng, who agreed to a fee of 270,000 yuan (£30,000) in advance, to be followed by 500,000 (£55,000) yuan after the killing.
Yang Kangsheng then offered Yang Guangsheng, another hitman, 200,000 yuan (£22,000) to kill Mr Li, with a 500,000 yuan bonus afterward.
Yuan Guangsheng approached a fifth hitman, Ling Xiansi, and offered him 100,000 (£11,000) yuan to murder Mr Wei.
But Ling met with Mr Wei in a coffee shop and offered to help him fake his death.
Mr Wei agreed and posed with his hands bound so Ling could claim the fee and allow his target to report the attempted murder to the police.
Tan was sentenced to five years in prison, while the hitmen were given sentences between two and four years.
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