Leaders of Chinese torture gangs jailed

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SCOTLAND YARD claimed a victory against a chain of brutal Chinese gangs that kidnapped and tortured illegal immigrants in an extortion racket after the last of their leaders was jailed yesterday.

The conviction of a further two Chinese gang members ends a series of trials dating back to June last year, which have seen 19 gang members and their leaders, known in the Chinese criminal underworld as Snakeheads, jailed for a total of 200 years.

Until yesterday, a court order had prevented the full publication of the cases.

The cases centred on a vicious extortion racket in London which saw the Snakeheads order the kidnapping of illegal Chinese immigrants in Britain. The gangs then demanded ransoms of up to pounds 40,000 from relatives abroad, backing up their threats by torturing their captives. They employed crude torture techniques: one man was manacled for 22 months, treated like a slave and had his finger slashed to the bone with a machete when he refused to rape another captive. The gangs used terrifying tactics to make sure ransom demands were met, beating their captives while the victims pleaded with their families over the telephone to pay up.

The gang trials concludedwhen two men involved in smuggling 30 Chinese nationals into Britain were convicted.

Detective Chief Superintendent Jeff Rees, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "The defendants in all of these cases are brutal individuals who trade on human suffering.

"The cases that have been reported have proved the extent to which kidnappers will use violence and torture to reinforce their demands."