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16 July 2010 - Media release

Thousands arrested in INTERPOL-led operation against illegal soccer gambling networks across Asia

LYON, France – More than 5,000 people have been arrested and nearly 10 million US dollars seized in an INTERPOL co-ordinated operation in Asia run throughout the 2010 FIFA World Cup targeting illegal soccer gambling linked to organized crime gangs.

In the month-long operation codenamed SOGA III, police across China (including Hong Kong and Macao), Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand identified and raided nearly 800 illegal gambling dens which handled more than 155 million US dollars’ worth of bets.

“The results we have seen are impressive, not only in the number of arrests and seizures made across the region in just one month, but in terms of the police co-operation which made this possible,” said Jean-Michel Louboutin, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services.

“As well as having clear connections to organized crime gangs, illegal soccer gambling is also linked with corruption, money laundering and prostitution, and Operation SOGA III will also have a significant long term impact on these serious offences as well,” added Mr Louboutin.

Co-ordinated by INTERPOL’s Drugs and Criminal Organizations unit at its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon and its Liaison Office in Bangkok, the operation was the third of its kind, bringing together officers from INTERPOL National Central Bureaus (NCBs) and other law enforcement agencies in the participating countries.

During the operation, which ran from 11 June to 11 July, officers also seized assets including cars, bank cards, computers and mobile phones. The information gathered will now be reviewed and analyzed to determine the potential involvement of other individuals or gangs across the region and beyond.

“The experience and expertise developed in each of these types of operations provides an even stronger base from which police can work, not only in targeting the organized crime networks behind illegal soccer gambling, but in combating all types of criminal activity which require a regional or international response,” said Mr Louboutin.

In total, the combined three SOGA operations have resulted in nearly 7,000 arrests, the seizure of more than 26 million US dollars in cash and the closure of illegal gambling dens which handled more than two billion dollars’ worth of bets.