Six people have been arrested for allegedly organizing people from China to gamble in Myanmar and illegally imprisoning them to force them to pay gaming debts, Shanghai police said yesterday.
The gamblers, at least five of whom have been identified so far, were illegally transported into Myanmar from Yunnan Province.
Set up so they would lose in the illicit casino, they were chained together in a village house, watched over by armed guards, and tortured till their debts were paid, police said.
Fengxian District police received the first report on the case last December when a woman surnamed Wang escaped the alleged gangsters.
Wang, who is about 50 years old, said she was persuaded to enter Myanmar illegally for gambling sessions while she was traveling in Yunnan. She ended up owing 250,000 yuan ($37,600) to the gang.
She said she was beaten up and indecent pictures were taken of her, but she managed to escape when local police came to investigate the place where victims were held, according to Fengxian police.
Last May, reports of two more victims reached the Fengxian police.
Clues from the three cases and four months of international cooperation in investigations led to the arrests in early September in Yunnan and Shanghai.
The alleged ringleader, a man surnamed Wu, who is a Fengxian local, is still being hunted.
Wu, who police said is illegally residing in Myanmar, is described as a "broker" of the casino where the victims were taken to and he is said to have coordinated other "brokers" to look for victims from China.
Some victims were recruited as gamblers from the start, but others who were ensnared said they were merely travelers or job seekers but fell into the gambling trap, police said.
'Gambling table rigged'
A man surnamed He, who is one of the arrested suspects, is a cousin of Wu's and also served as his "broker."
He told police it was impossible to win because everything on the gambling table was rigged. He is said to have added that the gamblers were recruited from all parts of China through social networks.
A 27-year-old man surnamed Peng was one of the victims. Police said he was taken to Myanmar by He and another suspect surnamed Qian at the end of April and lost 300,000 yuan overnight at the casino. Peng said he was then imprisoned by the gang.
"They cuffed me up together with a dozen others who were already imprisoned in the house, beat my feet and tortured me with a stick sending electric shocks, which was very painful," he recalled.
"We prisoners didn't even dare to talk to each other, but sometimes we exchanged compassionate looks to comfort each other."
Peng was made to beg for money from his mother to cover his debt, but she alerted police, which resulted in Peng's release from the gang after over 20 days in captivity.