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Cricket gambling leader gets 20 months

THE ringleader of a gang that organized betting on fighting crickets has been sentenced to 20 months in jail, the Jiading District People's Court said yesterday.

It was the city's biggest cricket gambling case cracked by the police last year.

The man, surnamed Xie, is the first member of the gang to be jailed. Other members will be tried after prosecutors collect enough evidence, judges said.

Another alleged member of the syndicate, Luo Fengquan, is still at large.

Cricket fighting - a popular pastime dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) - is flourishing in the city, especially among middle-aged unemployed men. Participants can buy the insects in about 20 bird and flower markets.

In a cricket fight, two insects are placed in a box, prodded to make them angry and set loose to fight to the death.

"The gambling ring was strictly organized," said Yang Fan, a judge of the court. "Its staff were professional. Nearly 100 gamblers were at each match."

Xie pleaded guilty in a court hearing on Thursday.

The gang held matches late at night in a graveyard in Nanhui District and three other locations in Nanhui, Qingpu and Jiading districts.

Usually a match lasted two or three hours. The stakes ranged from hundreds of yuan to more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,464). The gambling organizers took 5 to 10 percent of the bets in a match and could earn about 10,000 yuan per match, Xie said.

In October police swooped on a restaurant in Jiading District where they found Xie, 66 gamblers and 420,000 yuan in cash. Twenty-four gang members were detained.


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