LYON, France – More than 400 people have been arrested across Asia following a five-month operation co-ordinated by INTERPOL that targeted illegal soccer gambling controlled by organized crime gangs.
Police officers across the region identified and shut down a total of 272 underground gambling dens which were estimated to have handled more than 680 million US dollars worth of illegal bets worldwide.
'These significant results demonstrate the impact that national law enforcement can have on organized crime in their own country when their efforts are co-ordinated through INTERPOL’s global network and resources,' said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.
'Illegal soccer gambling is not only a crime in itself, but is often linked with other serious offences such as corruption, money laundering and prostitution, which generate massive profits, all too often at the cost of public services and the safety of hardworking people.'
Codenamed SOGA – short for soccer gambling - the operation was launched in June 2007 when officers from INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus and other law enforcement agencies across China (including Hong Kong and Macao), Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam met to exchange intelligence at an operational meeting held at INTERPOL’s liaison office in Bangkok.
Following a second meeting, held in Dongguan, China in August which included a training workshop for officers involved in the operation, it was agreed that each region would take action at the beginning of the football season.
'This operation has not only seriously affected the activities of organized crime gangs throughout Asia, but also served as an excellent test of national, regional and international police co-operation ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games,' added Mr Louboutin.
Conducted throughout October and November, SOGA is the first INTERPOL co-ordinated operation to combat illegal soccer gambling and resulted in a total of 423 people being arrested and the seizure of more than 680,000 US dollars worth of cash and assets including computers, bank cards, mobile phones and cars.
Specialists at INTERPOL’s Criminal Analysis units, both at the Liaison Office in Bangkok and at the General Secretariat in Lyon, will now review the results from the operation to determine if there are any established or potential links with other international criminals or organized crime groups.