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18.8.09

Police in the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing have cracked 14 gangs, some of them with high-level business ties, in a sweeping

campaign against organised vice, the government said on Saturday.

Nineteen gang bosses and more than 100 junior gang members have been arrested, along with "a fair number" of bosses of legitimate companies, the Chongqing government said on its website.

"We've broken up 14 evil gangs that have been running wild in our city for many years," government spokesman Zhou Bo said in the statement.

Three billionaires are believed to have been arrested in the course of the 50-day campaign, state-run Xinhua news agency said earlier.

The announcement comes just days after the city, one of China's largest, said a senior justice official was under investigation for possible ties to the mob.

Wen Qiang, the 55-year-old director of the city's justice bureau, is suspected of having helped cover up predatory lending and other types of gang activities, according to a previous Xinhua report.

Gangs have grown in number and power in China in recent years as a result of the extra opportunities for gain that economic reforms have produced.

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