China has sentenced two ringleaders of an online lottery scam to life in prison, while dozens of other suspects received shorter but still harsh sentences.
On Tuesday, Chinese state-run media outlet Xinhua reported that the Intermediate People’s Court in the city of Baishan in the eastern province of Jilin had handed down life sentences for the two organizers of an illegal online lottery operation that police rumbled in July 2017.
The ring had bases of operation in China’s Guangdong province, as well as in Indonesia and Fiji. Some 77 members of the ring were repatriated from Fiji as part of the 2017 crackdown.
The scam, which was operational for around 15 months, involved contacting unsuspecting marks via online messaging platforms such as QQ and WeChat and encouraging them to purchase lottery products from an online operation that didn’t actually exist. Roughly RMB153m (US$22m) was stolen from the ring’s victims in this manner before the whip came down.
In addition to the two life sentences, the ring’s 280-odd other members were given custodial terms of six months to 15 years. A lucky eight members were spared any sentence based on their minimal involvement in the scam.
In related news, police in Anhui province have arrested eight individuals accused of organizing an online casino that reaped around RMB100m from a clientele of around 500 gamblers. The action followed a tipoff in July from a disgruntled customer who’d lost around RMB130k in the previous couple months.
China’s hordes of gamblers have few legal options at their disposal, at least on the mainland, where the only games in town are the state-run welfare and sports lotteries. These products were once available online, but Beijing authorities ordered the suspension of online lottery sales in March 2015 and the government has shown no sign that it intends to lift this suspension anytime soon.