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18 July 2016

More than 4,100 arrests in INTERPOL-led operation targeting Asian illegal gambling networks

BANGKOK, Thailand - More than 4,100 people have been arrested and USD 13.6 million seized in two INTERPOL-led operations across Asia targeting illegal gambling dens and websites during the Euro 2016 football tournament.

During Operation SOGA VI (short for soccer gambling) nearly 4,000 raids were carried out across China – including Hong Kong and Macau – France, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam on illegal gambling dens estimated to have handled USD 649 million worth of bets. Additional investigative support was provided by the Netherlands.

Coordinated by INTERPOL’s Anti-Corruption and Financial crimes, Global Outreach and Regional Support units and its Liaison Office in Bangkok, both operations involved officers from INTERPOL National Central Bureaus and specialist units from across the region.

“The number of seizures is the highest and most significant amongst similar operations in recent years. The SOGA operations are important for tackling not just illegal gambling, but also the organized networks behind this and other types of crime,” said Chief Superintendent CHAN Lok-wing, Head of Hong Kong Police Force's Organized Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB) and current Chairman of the Asia - Pacific Expert Group on Organized Crime.

“The Hong Kong Police will continue to support INTERPOL in identifying and dismantling crime networks at the national, regional and global level,” added Chief Superintendent Chan.

In addition to the operational activities, the OCTB also conducted a public education and awareness campaign via radio and television aimed at deterring illegal gambling.

With Operation SOGA focused on local and national organized crime networks the second operation, called Aces, involving Cambodia, Korea, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, targeted the transnational networks behind illicit websites and call-centre type operations running online scams resulting in 33 arrests.

Three offices running illegal online gambling sites were shut down in Thailand, and police in Malaysia arrested 15 individuals in connection with payment card fraud.

Computers and mobile phones seized in both operations will be analysed to identify the potential involvement of other individuals and networks across the Asian region and beyond.

“Illegal gambling generates massive profits for organized crime networks which are often linked to corruption, human trafficking and money laundering,” said Jim Anderson, head of INTERPOL’s Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes unit.

“The successes of Operations SOGA and Aces would not have been achieved without global information sharing and the significant efforts by the law enforcement authorities on the ground,” added Mr Anderson.

To date, the combined six SOGA operations have resulted in more than 12,500 arrests, the seizure of around USD 53 million in cash and the closure of more than 3,400 illegal gambling dens which handled almost USD 6.4 billion worth of bets.