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Triad boss takes starring role in court drama

IT IS like a gangster movie saga only it happens to be real and the movie about the saga is being paid for by the king of Macau's gangsters, "Broken Tooth" Koi.

Yesterday "Broken Tooth", whose real name is Wan Kuok-koi was charged with a host of serious offences connected with organised crime. While he was being charged, preparations were under way for the the premiere of a film about Mr Wan's life, paid for by the principal subject.

"Broken Tooth" (who has now had his teeth capped) is reputed to be head of Macau's 14K Triad gang with an estimated membership of some 10,000, making it an enormous organisation in a territory with around half a million inhabitants.

The weekend arrest of Mr Wan, two bodyguards colourfully known as Chiu Yan (Superman) and Ah Gwei (Ghost) and others, followed a failed attempt on the life of Macau's police chief Antonio Marques Baptista, who was saved by the quick thinking of his dog who sniffed explosives in a car Mr Baptista was about to enter.

The chief then went after his man in person. Within hours he burst into a private room of a restaurant at the gaudy Hotel Lisboa where Mr Wan and other alleged gang members were watching a Hong Kong television programme about "Broken Tooth's" exploits.

Mr Baptista cuffed Mr Wan and triumphantly led him out of the hotel where a bevy of reporters were waiting to record the arrest. Neither the captive nor the captor are publicity shy. Mr Baptista is battling to end an eruption of gangland violence over control of high roller gambling on the fringes of the legitimate casino activity which keeps Macau's economy afloat. He sees himself as a cross between "Rambo" and "Dirty Harry".

Mr Wan describes himself as an "entertainment businessman" but makes little attempt to hide the strong-arm side of his activities. Last month he told an American magazine, "anyone who's done something bad to me will never escape. I won't kill him. I'll make him take a voyage to another world".

The film about his life, sponsored by Mr Wan, is called Casino, and it makes no bones about "Broken Tooth's" gangsterism. Indeed it shows how he muscled his way up the ranks to become the boss of the 14K Triad. A ruthless gang war, waged for the better part of a year, also appears to have made Mr Wan the criminal king-pin of Macau. The war has involved the killing of officials and assassinations in the middle of town in broad daylight.

"I'm not afraid of anyone," Mr Wan is quoted as saying, "there is no one left in Macau worth being afraid of." The gangland boss certainly does not seem to be afraid of the law. He has slipped in and out of custody and had highly paid lawyers tie up the courts while he remained out on the streets.

The authorities are seriously embarrassed by the outbreak of gang violence in the normally rather sleepy enclave.

The Macau government has arrested a total of 20 people "who are leading figures in one of the criminal organisation's active in the territory" alongside Mr Wan. Yesterday new laws were enacted to help the government crackdown on organised crime.

Even Stanley Ho, the powerful boss of the company which runs Macau's casinos, has proved unable to have any impact on the gang warfare. It remains to be seen whether the law will finally manage to put the big league crime bosses out of business.