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September 19, 2009

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Death sentences upheld for Hebei 'mafia' chiefs

THE higher people's court in north China's Hebei Province yesterday upheld a ruling sentencing 10 members of a mafia-like group to death, in a case that involved a wide range of crimes over the past six years.

The higher court also upheld suspended death penalties for four gang members and the imprisonment of 84 others. The original sentences were handed down by the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People's Court in June 2007.

Ringleaders Zhang Baoyi, Gao Yuehui, He Pidong and their accomplices were convicted of 19 crimes, including murder, intentional injury, robbery, extortion and organizing a gang, a higher court official said.

They were also accused of illegal gun possession and sales, and public fighting.

The gangsters had monopolized the road hauling business in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang and several nearby cities by force, and had forcibly fixed prices since February 2003.

The gang was involved in 38 organized-crime cases in which 10 people were murdered and more than 20 injured. It had a chain of command and clear divisions of labor: operations and management, bodyguards and enforcers, the court said.

Zhang and He paid salaries to gang members, provided funds for criminal activities and took perpetrators under their wing, the court said.

The higher court in Hebei will submit the death penalties of the 10 defendants to the Supreme People's Court for review.

China launched a nationwide campaign to crack down on gang crimes in February 2006.

The police have investigated more than 1,200 gang crime cases, dealt with more than 100,000 criminal cases and confiscated almost 2,600 guns.

Gao Jinghong, director of the top court's office in charge of the gang crime crackdown, said more than 3,000 suspects in 700 cases had been sentenced to terms ranging from five years in prison to death.

More than 46 percent of these suspects received "severe punishment," Gao said.


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