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5 sentenced to death in Yunnan gang trial

FIVE people were sentenced today to death after being convicted of drug trafficking, racketeering, fraud and selling counterfeit currency in southwest China.

The five were convicted at the Intermediate Court of Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, of organizing a 41-strong criminal gang.

The court handed down death sentences on Jiang Jiatian, leader of the gang, his mistress Yang Jufen, Yang's father Yang Guoying, and Xie Mingxiang, another core member.

Li Wencai, a woman who played a lead role in the gang's drug trafficking, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

Other 36 members of the gang received jail terms ranging from 18 months to life.

A court spokesman said Jiang Jiatian, 56, made a fortune from drug trafficking in the mid 1990s and had invested his illicit income in at least 10 teahouses, Internet cafes and hotels in Kunming.

Almost all his businesses turned out to be dens for prostitution, extortion, racketeering, and sales of drugs and counterfeit banknotes, the spokesman said.

He said Jiang had involved relatives and friends in his gang. Most of them were jobless, and some were former convicts.

The gang had disrupted social order in at least three villages in the suburbs of Kunming, and many villagers wrote to local governments complaining they felt "unsafe."

Some said they were forced to pay up to 1,000 yuan for a kettle of tea at Jiang's teahouses, under threat of violence, the spokesman said.

Many customers complained they were given were counterfeit banknotes in change, and that they were beaten up when they protested.

The trial of the gang began in late September, a year after its cardinal members were arrested.

In September, the court heard that the gang smuggled and traded a variety of narcotics, and that the exact amount was unknown because the trafficking had occurred over an extended period.

China's police launched a long-term campaign against criminal gangs in 2006. As of September, 1,267 cases of gang crimes had been dealt with across the country, with more than 13,000 gangs broken up and at least 89,000 people arrested.


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