Following on from New York Times bestseller Midnight in Peking, Paul French released City of Devils, a delve into the murky underworld of Old Shanghai. There were plenty of wrong'uns about, and a whole lot of bad blood between them. In this 'Gangs of Old Shanghai' series, French presents us with a who's who of old time organized crime, and quite the rogues gallery it is too.
The Silver Palace Gang
Boss: José Botelho
Base: The Silver Palace Casino, Avenue Foch (Yan’an Zhong Lu)
José Botelho ran one of the two biggest Portuguese gangs in Shanghai (read about ‘Fat’ Tony Perpetuo and his 37427 Gang here) – both had excellent connections with Lisbon and Macao. The Silver Palace was the headquarter for Botelho’s Portuguese Commercial Enterprises, which specialized in roulette and was also an opium den.
The gang transported and traded people, guns, roulette wheels and slot machines to and from Macao. When the war started they also began a lucrative trade in Portuguese passports and visas to get people (who paid enough) out of China and to neutral Macao and on to Lisbon. But the Silver Palace was the scene of a police raid in 1941; nine Chinese croupiers were arrested, while the roulette wheels and plenty of opium were confiscated.
Botelho was charged in the Portuguese Consular Court (under the rather useful system of extraterritoriality in Shanghai), received a small fine that the Silver Palace could make back on its gaming tables in 20 minutes, and was released on bail. José and his Portuguese crew skipped bail, jumped on a ship to Macao and re-established themselves down on the Praya Grande, protected by neutrality.
[Images courtesy of Paul French]