More than 4,100 people have been arrested and US$13.6 million seized in two INTERPOL-led operations across Asia targeting illegal gambling dens and websites during the recent 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, according to a statement issued by INTERPOL. Additional investigative support was provided by the Netherlands, it said.
“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 statement said 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.
INTERPOL said 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, it said.
“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 combined six SOGA operations have resulted in more than 12,500 arrests, the seizure of around US$53 million in cash and the closure of more than 3,400 illegal gambling dens which handled almost US$6.4 billion worth of bets.