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Prison terms for gambling gang

TWENTY defendants in Shanghai's biggest online soccer gambling case were sentenced to up to six years in prison yesterday, the Putuo District People's Court announced.

The betting syndicate's stakes exceeded 6.6 billion yuan (US$877 million), and the gang earned profits of more than 1.6 million yuan from illegal wagers from August 2006 to May 2008.

Qian Baochun, a local man aged 41 who led the syndicate, was given six years in prison and a 5-million-yuan fine. Qian was charged with operating three betting clubs that were linked to overseas soccer gambling Websites, including one in Macau.

The other 19 defendants were given sentences from one to five years. Five defendants were given probation.

Qian plotted with two men, Zou Jun and Liu Biqing, to apply for accounts at overseas betting Websites in 2006.

They started making bets during the World Cup in Germany in 2006, according to prosecutors.

The three then conspired with six other defendants to develop a network of agents and gamblers. They also hired people to maintain the Websites, open gambling accounts and settle debts with gamblers and agents, Qian told prosecutors.

This is the largest case of its kind seen in Shanghai, officials said. Previously, the largest gambling case was in March 2007, when the Luwan District People's Court announced verdicts in an online soccer gambling case involving 5.25 billion yuan in bets.

Online soccer gambling has seen a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years, the court said. Most individual bets on matches now exceed 10,000 yuan.

Online soccer gambling gangs have also shown a marked rise in sophistication in recent years, said the court.


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