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Chinese police have smashed a multi-billion-pound gambling ring that took illegal bets on World Cup football. There is no indication the bets were taken on Ghana versus Serbia game (pictured)

Chinese police have smashed a multi-billion-pound gambling ring that took illegal bets on World Cup football.

The alleged ringleader ‘Dark Brother’ is accused over dealings worth $14.7billion, according to a report.

The gang, which has been in operation since 2006 and was broken up days before the World Cup was due to start, are accused of running a sophisticated online betting network, the Guangzhou Daily said.

Many of the bets were placed in Guangzhou, which is the capital of China’s southern province of Guangdong.

China’s scandal-plagued football team failed to qualify for the World Cup, but that has not dampened the enthusiasm of Chinese fans.

A number of fans have wagered on matches, despite the ruling Communist Party’s ban on gambling.

The government allows only small bets through state-run sports ‘lotteries’.

‘Off the field, the enthusiasm of ordinary fans to take part in football gambling has been growing and the talons of gambling gangs extend across the country and soccer betting is rampant,’ said the Chinese-language daily.

Police arrested the gang leader, a Hong Kong man who goes by the nickname ‘Dark Brother’, when he was leaving a cocaine-fuelled nightclub party in the early hours of June 7 in Shenzhen, a city neighbouring Hong Kong, it said.

‘The case of the gambling gang involves accumulated sums of over 100billion yuan,’ said the report, citing police claims.

It did not explain the basis for that estimate, leaving it unclear how much was won back by gamblers.

‘The black hand behind this massive gambling racket was a gambling baron who hid in the Shenzhen-Hong Kong area,’ it said.

‘Dark Brother’ and his subordinates ran a tightly-organised network across southern and eastern China that took bets through the Internet. The report said the gang leader’s surname was Li.

Another leader in the gang was a woman who went by the nickname ‘Old Cat,’ the report said. She helped run the operation from an ordinary-looking apartment, where she lived with her child, it said.

Neighbours said they had no idea. ‘She was the ringleader of a gambling gang? I never saw that,’ a neighbourhood management official told the paper.

The gang made its money by taking a share of the ante that gamblers wagered on matches, the report said.