Politicians among thousands at mobster's funeral

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The Independent Online

Senior Taiwanese politicians were among a crowd of 20,000 attending the funeral of one of the island's most prominent mafia bosses yesterday.

The country's parliamentary speaker and city mayors mixed with gangsters from Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan at the Buddhist service in the city of Taichung for Lee Chao-hsiung, who died of cancer last month.

Despite his status as head of the Big Lake gang, Mr Lee left more than £2m to charity in his will, and had refused to allow his sons to follow in his footsteps. He also negotiated the release of kidnapped politicians and businessmen, and was dubbed "the mafia arbitrator" for his efforts.

The former foreign minister, Taichung mayor Jason Hu, said: "I felt I had to come to express my thanks. When the man left this world, he used this way to show his concern for society." Mr Lee's funeral procession was led by a motorcade of 108 limousines. Hundreds of police were present at the service.

Taiwan's young democracy tolerates continued ties between politicians and organised crime, which is now in decline.