Talk about foul play. Two separate operations against illegal gambling led by INTERPOL resulted in the arrest of over 4,100 people the seizure of $13.6 million dollars during the Euro 2016 football tournament this summer.
Operation SOGA VI (short for soccer gambling) saw nearly 4,000 raids 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 $649 million US dollar worth of bets.
“The number of seizures is the highest and most significant amongst similar operations in recent years,” 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 SOGA operations are important for tackling not just illegal gambling, but also the organized networks behind this and other types of crime.”
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-center 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 analyzed 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,” he added.
To date, the combined six SOGA operations have resulted in more than 12,500 arrests, the seizure of around $53 million in cash and the closure of more than 3,400 illegal gambling dens which handled almost $6.4 billion worth of bets.
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