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November 4, 2009

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Chongqing crime 'Godmother' sentenced to 18-year jail term

A WOMAN called the "Godmother" of Chongqing's underworld was sentenced to 18 years in prison and fined 1.02 million yuan (US$149,400) yesterday for running a gang, operating casinos, bribery and unlawful detention.

The sentence was handed down by the Chongqing No. 5 Intermediate People's Court against Xie Caiping, who is the sister-in-law of Chongqing's former deputy police chief and justice bureau director, Wen Qiang.

Wen faces a separate trial for rape, taking millions of yuan in bribes, possession of unaccounted-for assets and offering protection to gangs.

Xie's trial was part of a months-long crackdown in the southwest city that has exposed widespread government and police involvement in providing cover to numerous local gangs, or "black societies."

Twenty-one others were sentenced yesterday to between one and 13 years in prison, according to a notice on the Chongqing court Website.

Among them, Luo Xuan, who news portal described as the 46-year-old casino boss's "boy toy," was given four years and six months in prison and fined 200,000 yuan for managing Xie's casinos.

Luo, 26, told the court that he was used by Xie and coaxed into criminal acts.

Former police officer Guo Sheng was sentenced to 13 years, and officer Gan Yong got 12 years for taking 180,000 yuan in bribes in exchange for their protection.

The court said Xie recruited more than 20 former convicts to work in the 10 or so casinos she opened since 2004.

According to the verdict, Xie and her group earned about 2 million yuan from the casinos and providing protection from police for gamblers and drug users and supplying narcotics through August 2008.

Xie, Guo and Gan told the court they will appeal the sentence, and Luo said he was still considering whether to challenge the ruling, according to the Website report.

Xie, who pleaded not guilty, argued in her 30-hour trial that the casinos she was accused of running were merely "entertainment venues" her friends talked her into buying because she liked card games.

Xie also described a gambler she was accused of illegally confining because he owed her money as "a friend."

Chen Yanling, a Chongqing resident who said she was beaten by thugs after refusing a corrupt cop's request to turn her teahouse into a casino, told The Associated Press she and other victims gathered outside the court waiting for the sentence. But they were angered by the result, with some people refusing to leave before police escorted them away.

"We didn't believe our ears when we first heard it was just 18 years. How many crimes has she committed?" Chen said.

Xie, 18 other alleged crime bosses, and more than 2,000 suspected gang members were seized in Chongqing police raids that began in June.

In addition, 700 officials were picked up between January and July in connection with those cases.


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