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10 July 2008 - Media release

Police across Asia break up illegal soccer gambling networks in INTERPOL-led operation

LYON, France – An INTERPOL co-ordinated operation targeting illegal soccer gambling across Asia has resulted in more than 1,300 arrests and the seizure of over 16 million US dollars.

During the two-month-long operation, law enforcement officers throughout the region identified and raided 1,088 illegal gambling dens, many of which were controlled by organized crime gangs and are estimated to have handled nearly one and a half billion US dollars’ worth of bets.

Conducted between 1 May and 30 June 2008, Operation SOGA II – short for soccer gambling – was the second action of its type in the region and was timed to coincide with the Euro 2008 soccer championships and the final matches of major soccer leagues around the world.

“The effect this operation has achieved is substantial, not only in terms of breaking up illegal gambling dens and criminal networks, but in demonstrating the impact that co-operation through INTERPOL internationally can have at the national and local levels,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.

“We have seen even more impressive results in SOGA II, with more than triple the number of arrests made and 25 times the amount of cash seized than during the first operation held in November last year.”

Co-ordinated by INTERPOL’s Drugs and Criminal Organizations unit at the General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon and its Liaison Office in Bangkok, Operation SOGA II brought together officers from INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus and other law enforcement agencies across China (including Hong Kong and Macao), Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Officers participated in a series of meetings of the INTERPOL Asia Pacific Expert Group on Asian Organized Crime in addition to operational workshops and computer forensic training. A dedicated criminal database for the project, which focussed on illegal gambling, was also created, and information gathered can now be analysed and used to conduct future operations.

“SOGA II has again proved the strength of national, regional and international police co-operation and forms an excellent base for collective security efforts during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, which are now only weeks away,” added Mr Louboutin.

Operation SOGA I was conducted in October and November 2007 and resulted in more than 400 arrests after raids on 272 illegal gambling dens estimated to have handled more than 680 million US dollars’ worth of bets. More than 680,000 US dollars in cash and assets were seized, including computers, bank cards, mobile phones and cars.