Chinese internet celebrity jailed for five years

Beijing, Sep 11 (IANS) A Chinese internet celebrity has been sentenced to five years in jail and fined 50,000 yuan ($7,840) for illegal casino operations, a media report said on Friday.

Guo Meimei, 23, was charged by the Beijing Dongcheng People’s District Court on Thursday for organising gambling activities in an apartment, the Global Times reported.

Guo, 24, gained notoriety in China in 2011 when she claimed to be the manager of an organisation under the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) and flaunted her wealth and extravagant lifestyle on social media.

The scandal affected the reputation of the RCSC and triggered public concern over the possible embezzlement of charity funds. The RCSC suffered a huge drop in donations after the scandal.

Guo was arrested in August 2014 after the Beijing police cracked down on online football gambling activities. Guo was held on suspicion of running gambling activities, engaging in prostitution and posting false information on her website during the 2013 World Cup.

Prosecutors said Guo organised three gambling sessions in March, June and July at an apartment in Beijing’s Chao-yang district involving 2.1 million yuan.

Guo admitted inviting people to high-stakes poker games at an apartment in Chaoyang district, but denied illegally running a casino.

She told the court that she was sorry and hoped to get a lighter sentence as a first-time offender.

“The amount of money and people involved in the gambling activities, and whether the suspect pleads guilty will affect the verdict. The verdict was stiffer than a similar case because of Guo’s influence on society as a celebrity and her attitude,” Zhou Hao, a lawyer said.

Thursday’s trial did not include her alleged involvement in prostitution or her relationship with a “sugar daddy,” a businessman surnamed Wang, who was also arrested in July 2014.

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