Mon, Dec 07, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Gaming scandal linked to murders in England

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND

They were recruiters in a betting scam, the police said. Zhou placed advertisements, using her nickname, Cici, on a local Mandarin-language Web site to lure students as spotters and informers for betting syndicates in China and Hong Kong.

The recruits, who attended games across England, were paid to describe the action over a Chinese cellphone, Wade said.

DELAYS

By exploiting a delay of one or two minutes between the play and the satellite broadcast, the police testified, the syndicate could place a winning bet on the next goal, throw-in, or corner or free kick before it was seen in the East.

The police said they believed Yang recruited as many as 50 people to monitor games. Before the murders, Wade said, threatening messages were posted online, accusing Yang of failing to keep promises about payments.

But no one other than Cao was brought to trial.

Cases involving gambling rings are always hard to prove, and those involved are rarely brought to justice. Three years ago, for example, it was proved that matches in the Belgian league were fixed. But the ringleader, identified as Ye Zheyun, slipped out of the country and was presumed to have returned to China.

Interpol has had some success against international betting rings. In recent years, two operations involving the police in China, Hong Kong, Macao, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam broke up major rings.

“Gambling on soccer might seem as harmless as placing a small bet on your favorite team,” Ronald Noble, the secretary general of Interpol, said last year at a Singapore conference on Asian organized crime. “But these illegal operations are often controlled by organized criminals who frequently engage in loan sharking and use intimidation and violence to collect debts.”

He linked the gambling to murder, extortion, prostitution and trafficking in drugs. Last week Interpol become a partner with FIFA, the global soccer organization, to attack the link between the game and criminality.

Wade said he regretted that he had to close the double-murder case for want of resources. Cao remains silent and some Newcastle residents maintain theirs too.

CHEEKY REPLY

Asked if they thought the murders were related to betting, staffers at the Cheeky Duck restaurant, in a cluster of Chinese shops and a community center, pointed across the road to a casino.

Some Chinese students at Newcastle University were bolder. Lu Yanjun, studying law, turned the crime into a stage play for new arrivals in October.

“As Chinese people we have quite a strong tradition, and there is a lot of homesickness,” Lu said. “You have to figure out how you can best finish your studies. If you lose your direction, you lose yourself.”

Shi Shuangshuang, head of the university’s Chinese student union, recalled being afraid after the murders “because we didn’t know what was happening.”

Feeling safer eight months after the trial, she said: “You’re fine if you don’t gamble.”

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