Chinese forced labour camps are being used to steal cash from westerners in lucrative gold farming operations, according to a former prisoner.
Liu Dali has told The Guardian that his day work as a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp involved breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. However, at night he was ordered to farm for gold in computer fantasy games.
Liu claims he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real cash.
He was a former prison guard himself who was jailed for three years in 2004 for “illegally petitioning” the central government about corruption in his town.
Liu claimed that prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour.
More than 300 prisoners were forced to play games and the officials were earning £500, or $800 a day off the gold farming racket.
One of the problems is that a lack of regulations has meant prisoners can be exploited to make cash for the prison guards.
According to the China Internet Centre, nearly £1.2bn of online currencies were traded in China in 2008 and the number of gamers who play to earn and trade credits is growing like topsie.
More than 80 percent of all gold farmers are in China where there are thought to be 100,000 full-timers.
Liu, who left prison in 2009, believes that the practice of prisoners being forced to earn online currency in multiplayer games is still widespread.