Police have broken a nationwide kidnap racket in which more than 300 peasant girls were lured from their villages and forced into prostitution. The girls were picked up from villages in Hubei and hired out to roadside inns as prostitutes, Xinhua said. More than 150 suspects from 12 crime gangs were arrested, the agency said. Forty-two hotels were shut down as part of the operation that spanned nine provinces. The arrests followed a six-month investigation that began when police found an abducted woman at a hotel in Shiyan, Hubei province. The investigation uncovered Li Pinghu and his brother, Li Mingde, as head of the kidnap operation. According to police, 12 teams were organised. Some groups would go to villages in Hubei and recruit peasant girls, aged from 12 to 17, by promising jobs in the cities. The girls would then be sent to other gangs based at hotels throughout the country. The hotels took the girls' earnings as prostitutes and paid the syndicate rent of up to 2,000 yuan (HK$1,800) a month for each girl. Xinhua reported that Li Mingde earned more than 200,000 a month by renting out the girls to the hotels. The girls, if paid, were given only 300 yuan a month. Police said some girls saw an average of 14 customers a day. In April, the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court sentenced to death Miao Changshui, ring-leader of a criminal gang which coerced young women to work as prostitutes at the restaurant he managed.