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November 7, 2009

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Twins jailed over 'mafia' extortion

TWIN brothers who were the youngest gang leaders in Chongqing were jailed for 17 years and fined 100,000 yuan (US$14,648) each yesterday following a citywide crime crackdown.

Chongqing No.2 Intermediate People's Court convicted Zhang Bo and Zhang Tao, 23, of leading a mafia-style gang, running gambling dens, assault and illegal imprisonment, according to Chongqing Website

Twenty-two defendants stood trial with the Zhang brothers and received sentences ranging from 13 years to six months for involvement with the gang.

Another nine were sentenced to up to nine years, and one received probation. The youngest among the defendants were only 20.

The court said the brothers organized a 14-member mafia-style gang in early 2007 that opened gambling dens.

The brothers' gang was known as the "street lords" in Wanzhou District of the southwestern China city before they were busted in police raids in July.

The gang was well known locally for wielding choppers threatening people with whom they had disputes.

The Zhang brothers armed their henchmen with long knives and stipulated that every new member should prove their bravery by completing a "mission," usually to start random fights on street.

The gang had a strict hierarchy and members were paid salary in accordance with "work performance" and rank.

They earned thousands every year from usury and gambling dens. They also hired stand-over men to collect debts for local businessmen.

The brothers hired more than 20 attorneys to defend the gang. Zhang Bo, the "older" twin, tried to shield Zhang Tao by taking all the blame.

The Zhangs were building a three-story house with a secret tunnel for escapes, China Central Television reported. Construction was halted after they were arrested.

The brothers' father said he had long accepted his sons may one day end up behind bars.


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