Betting scam linked to Chinese student couple’s murder

CHILLING threats were posted on internet chat sites against the Chinese man found murdered in his flat, The Journal can reveal.

Chinese internet forum

CHILLING threats were posted on internet chat sites against the Chinese man found murdered in his flat, The Journal can reveal.

A three-day investigation by Journal reporters has revealed Zhen Xing Yang was linked with gambling and fake document scams.

And it has uncovered widespread anger among Chinese people living in Britain caught up in the apparent cons.

Among the hundreds of comments about the murdered man on Chinese chat sites include threats to track him down in Newcastle and warnings for him to “watch out”.

The Journal employed a Mandarin translator to help decipher the discussions on the forums. All of our findings have now been passed to Northumbria Police.

Det Supt Steve Wade, leading the investigation, said last night: “I would like to thank The Journal for its involvement in this aspect of the investigation.

“It shows how the whole of Newcastle has come together in abhorrence at these murders.”

Internet users identified Mr Yang, whose internet identity is lanyang0201, as a recruiting agent for an international gambling scam.

It involves Chinese people phoning football updates from Premiership matches to beat the bookies in China.

But more allegations suggested he was failing to pay those he employed to carry out the work.

One posted threats against the 25-year-old, warning: “I’m sure I can find them, wait there I will find you. We’ll see who’s the bad guy.”

Xi Zhou, Zhen Xing Yang, murdered chinese students

Postings converted into English by the translator last night revealed the Newcastle University graduate was branded a “liar” and a “cheat”.

The Journal can also exclusively reveal how Mr Yang said he could provide young Chinese students with fake UK degree certificates to take home.

He is also said to have issued fake international driving licences and sold expensive toiletries for cut-price rates, which then failed to materialise.

Internet postings revealed he began to offer tutorials for economics students in 2005, priced at £20 per hour, via a Chinese students’ website. He also offered rooms to let at a student house in Heaton Road.

Police so far have no motive for the attack, which shocked both residents living close to the scene and the Chinese community.

Mr Yang and his girlfriend Xi Zhou, who posted on internet forums using her nickname of Ci Ci, were discovered by a friend at their ground floor flat in Croydon Road, Fenham, on Saturday afternoon.

They were found in bed in separate rooms of the flat. Miss Zhou had been beaten and suffocated, while Mr Yang, who was still wearing his night clothes, suffered massive head injuries.

Police think Mr Yang, also known as Kevin, could have been tortured for up to an hour before he was killed.

Miss Zhou was dressed in her Wagamama restaurant uniform.

The last time she was spotted alive was after leaving work at the oriental restaurant in Eldon Square, Newcastle, on Thursday night.

The couple met while studying for masters degrees at Newcastle University and graduated in 2006. Both had been issued with UK visas, which were due to expire later this year. Detectives are yet to establish how Mr Yang earned money, although it was thought he had been financed by his family back in China.

Under his username lanyang0201, the digits of which match his date of birth, he asked for football assistants to go to a stadium to watch football matches and report via mobile phone.

Recruits were sent to matches as far away as the USA and were paid $120, including the price of the game.

According to adverts and postings on the internet, it appears that the agency Mr Yang was working for had assistants throughout the world.

But many on the forums complain of not being paid for their work. And it is alleged that 5,000 euros was stolen from him by a middleman. In messages posted on the networking site, one user who had not been paid for travelling to matches, threatened to come to Newcastle, but Mr Yang said he had gone back to China, so there was no need to “look for him”.

The user said: “You said everybody got paid, you continued to lie. I have received lots of private messages about you.

“Some people didn’t reply directly because they didn’t want to bring trouble on themselves.

“I’m not afraid of anything. I say what I should say.”

Messages were also uploaded saying that an account registered to his girlfriend, cici_uk, failed to provide bottles of perfume, face creams and female toiletries, although it is not clear whether she was involved directly.

When news about their horrific deaths was posted on the website, messages of shock began to appear.

One read: “However much they were hated, they shouldn’t die in this way,” and “They were killed by somebody who hates them. It’s a little bit too much to kill someone, how could somebody get so angry.”

Det Supt Wade said last night: “A possible motive for the killing is beginning to emerge concerning the lifestyle of Xi Zhou and Zhen Xing Yang.

“Community intelligence supported by the examination of computer equipment and mobile call data has shown that both of the victims have been involved in fraudulent activity which has angered and upset a number of people.

“We are currently investigating this as a possible motive for the killings.”

5,000 Euro ‘rip-off’

INTERNET users claimed Mr Yang was left owing a 5,000 euro debt after being ripped off by a business partner. They report a colleague called Paul disappeared with the cash intended for paying the recruits who covered football matches for the betting scam.

More messages on the forum refer to the worldwide agency behind the scam and one user begins a conversation by suggesting that the type of "football assistant job" offered by Mr Yang was "a lie".

He goes on to describe having completed such a job without being paid, including having bought a ticket to a football game and paid for his transport to the venue.

Another forum poster under the alias ‘Wesleyang’ then responds to this allegation. He names Paul as a business partner and refers to him as having contracted Mr Yang to recruit football reporters.

Wesleyang goes on to describe how his own company paid Paul via banker’s draft to distribute money to agents to recruit agents.

Paul is then alleged to have disappeared with 5,000 euros owed to Mr Yang. Wesleyang substantiates his comments by claiming to be "in charge" of the territory in which Yang operated. He refers to agents in other countries carrying out their duties "honestly".

Online revelations of business dealings

THE Journal has translated Mr Yang’s online comments relating to his business dealings operating in the North East.

Among his discussions with fellow Chinese students, he said: "Mexican teams playing in Los Angeles. We need 2 people. Mobile phones, reports back to the company, the company will call you and speak Chinese. $100 payment, you get paid $20 to buy the ticket.

"1-2 games a week. Payment will go to bank account after the match, 1 payment after 1 match.

"Recruiting football assistants, no need to be a professional. Go to the football stadium to watch the game, report what’s going on to the company, the company calls your mobile so you won’t get charged. Need to be a responsible person to do the job well. Can’t be laid back person.

"Locations all over Britain. Many cities have big football teams. Advertising the football. Looking for people to work in London, Blackpool, York, Preston, Stoke, Leeds Bradford and Manchester.

"Ideally you have your own car. You need to be familiar with the local area because sometimes football grounds aren’t in the middle of the city. Most games are on Saturday. We need you to be responsible and on time. Reporting style simple, no analyse.

"No forgery, all legitimate. Four years experience doing this. We have people going to UK and Europe to watch the games."

"Can provide a real certificate to prove they studied abroad. You should finish your studies but if you couldn’t finish, we might be able to help. Those who are interested in the offer can get it done today, no deposit, 10 working days and by 10 days you will know if it’s real or fake.

"If you can’t finish your studies, we will try our best to help you with one of the certificates.

"I can provide a real International Student Certificate. We will try our best to help you."

Some of the angry messages posted on the internet

THE Journal has translated online comments from angry internet users.

"Cici_uk has been deceitful.

"Why do you delete the post, are you afraid of something? If you haven’t done anything bad, what have you got to be afraid of?

"Give me the money as soon as possible, it has been three weeks. You don’t even answer the phone, you liar.

"Cici_uk always posts on this BB (bulletin board) looking for football assistants.

"Of course I ask for my money, they said they would pay me the next day. I check my account the next day, nothing was there.

"I gave her another phone call, she said she was busy and didn’t have time. Too busy lying to others. If you have the guts, go and lie to non-Chinese people.

"Previously I think she sold cosmetics, if they are selling anything, watch out.

"I believe they are still doing some of the things and they will continue. So ask for money in advance. I have their phone no and email addresses. If you want, I will publicise them.

"Don’t trust them, liars, haven’t paid me for 3 weeks. Don’t let people be fooled.

"What about my money, they said it will be in bank account the following day. I check bank account, nothing was there.

"By the evening the money still hadn’t arrived.

"Dec 11th still haven’t received the money so I made a phone call and shouted. They accused me of having a bad attitude.

"I feel angry again, I made another phone call to them at 11.45pm when they heard it was me, they hung up. After the phone call, I swore. I shouted to them and asked them to "watch out".

"I’m sure I can find them, I asked them, wait there I will find you.

"I went to Newcastle and couldn’t find him. The male said he was going to go back to China and that there was no need to look for him. I’m not happy. We’ll see who’s the bad guy!"

"You cici have cheated money from JM and you Lanyang, you have been selling fake international driving licences and fake university materials. Everyone go to Google and see for yourself."


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer