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China's 'godmother' sentenced to 18 years, state media says

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China's underworld on trial
  • Xie Caiping sentenced to 18 years in prison for organized crime
  • Convicted of running gambling dens, illegal imprisonment, harboring people and bribing officials, say state media
  • Crime crackdown in Chongqing has implicated millionaires, gangsters, police officers
  • Economic boom has allowed criminals to thrive in the once rundown municipality
  • China
  • Chongqing

Beijing, China (CNN) -- A court sentenced a Chinese crime boss known as the "godmother of the underworld" to 18 years in prison Tuesday, state-run media reported.

Xie Caiping "was convicted of organizing and leading a criminal organization, running gambling dens, illegal imprisonment, harboring people taking illegal narcotics and giving bribes to officials," the Xinhua news agency reported. She was also fined 1.02 million yuan (about $150,000).

Twenty-one others were given jail terms ranging from one to 13 years by Chongqing No. 5 Intermediate People's Court.

A massive crackdown, which began in China's Chongqing municipality in June, has implicated millionaires, gangsters, and even police officers. Known as dahei or combat triads, the campaign has put the spotlight on organized crime and how it has infested local bureaucracy and businesses through bribery, extortion, blackmail and violence.

Police operations have led to the arrest of more than 4,800 suspected gangsters and the confiscation of 1,700 illegal firearms. Investigations led to many city officials, including police officers.

More trials are expected as the city fights at least 14 mafia-style gangs. Given China's opaque political world, it is notable that the trials are being extensively covered by the Chinese media.

For years after the Cultural Revolution, Chongqing languished as a decrepit mountain-city in Sichuan province, better known for its spicy food. It became the world's largest city in 1997 when the central government, by administrative edict, incorporated a huge area adjacent to the city into what is now Chongqing.

China's goal was to build Chongqing into a modern megacity that would serve as the new economic engine in central China. Over the years, thanks to the influx of corporate investments and central government funding in infrastructure projects, the city of 31 million has been at the center of an economic boom.

But the economic boom has also led to the resurgence of local gangs engaged in human and drug trafficking, illegal gambling, prostitution, extortion and protection rackets. Gangsters were blamed for heinous crimes of murder and kidnapping. Local officials were accused of "economic crimes"-- bribery, profiteering and corrupt behavior in public office, involving public funds and property.

Such abuses have prompted popular anger and social unrest.