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Disciplined drug gang ends up in courtroom

THIRTEEN members of what prosecutors said was a highly organized gang that sold heroin and beat up rivals to maintain control over its territory went on trial in a Shanghai court yesterday.

Authorities calculated the gang had sold more than 2 kilograms of heroin and earned at least 1.6 million yuan (US$234,000) in Zhabei District near Shanghai Railway Station. Gang members also beat up five drug-sale rivals, injuring two seriously, according to prosecutors.

Alleged ringleader Zang Qiang, 37, from Tibet Autonomous Region, was the first to be questioned at the start of a three-day trial in Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court. He stands charged with organizing and leading a criminal gang, drug sales and assault.

The other 12 face prosecution on sales and assault charges. An undisclosed number of other gang members have either already been jailed or face trial in separate cases.

Zang denied he was in charge, telling the court that the gang did not have a leader but made joint decisions.

Prosecutors, however, said Zang recruited dozens of jobless men in Shanghai from July 2004 to July 2007, promising them salaries, bonuses and a housing and food allowance. He also reportedly promised to cover medical costs for gang members who were hurt in work-related fights.

Ten of the 12 defendants, described as key members of the operation, had criminal records ranging from drug sales to robbery.

Zang arranged to buy heroin in large quantities and then repackaged the drugs in small plastic bags that were sold in the area near Chang'an Road W., prosecutors said. Gang members were dispatched to sell the drugs and received pay from Zang, Hu Mingliang, 34, a key member of the gang, said at the hearing. He didn't specify the payment amount.

To control his gang, Zang allegedly enforced strict discipline. Members were banned from using drugs, stealing drugs or drug trade money and from selling drugs on their own. Anyone who lost drugs was required to repay the loss, and those who didn't sell any drugs didn't get paid.

The members were also required to help in group fights to defend the gang's turf.

"Anyone who dares to sell drugs in our territory will be driven out," Zang allegedly instructed his men.

After admitting only that he was involved in drug sales and fights, Zang refused to answer most questions from the prosecutors.


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