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22 Aug, 2018

Illegal 2018 World Cup gambling: Asia-wide Interpol raids yield US$1.6 bln in bets

LYON, France (Interpol media release) Aug 17, 2018 – Thousands of raids have been undertaken and suspects arrested in an INTERPOL-led operation against illegal gambling conducted throughout Asia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Operation SOGA VII (short for soccer gambling) saw more than 14,900 raids at illegal gambling dens across China – including Hong Kong and Macao – Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, which were estimated to have handled some USD 1.6 billion worth of bets.

Coordinated by INTERPOL’s Organized and Emerging Crime Directorate, the operation targeted the organized crime networks behind illegal gambling in the region. With 242 arrests in Hong Kong alone, additional information relating to arrests and prosecutions will be available to global police authorities as ongoing investigations unfold.

During the month-long (22 June – 16 July) operation police seized more than USD 1.7 million in cash, as well as 1,000 computers and mobile phones which are being analyzed to support ongoing investigations.

In Macao, police received intelligence that a criminal network had set up an illegal gambling ring targeting betters in mainland China. A total of 16 individuals – including the suspected ringleader – were arrested in both jurisdictions following raids at residential buildings and casinos, and police seized vehicles, cash, computers, mobile phones and accounting books.

“With the Hong Kong Police Force alone seizing betting slips worth USD 16,8 million, Operation SOGA VII owes its success largely to the power of global and regional police cooperation through INTERPOL,” said Chief Superintendent Tat-Shing Man of Hong Kong’s Organized Crime and Triad Bureau.

“Participating jurisdictions made the most of our solid collective experience of six previous SOGA operations which enabled us to clearly anticipate links between Asian betting syndicates and their illegal counterparts operating beyond Asia’s borders during the World Cup,” added Mr Man, who also serves as Chairman of INTERPOL’s Asia-Pacific Expert Group on Organized Crime.

With Operation SOGA VII highlighting a clear shift from physical betting operations to online betting services, INTERPOL’s Director of Organized and Emerging Crime, Paul Stanfield, underscored how illegal gambling generates huge profits for organized criminal networks which are often linked to other serious crimes.

“Such online platforms have brought an international dimension to the phenomenon and are often located in jurisdictions with few regulations on sports betting, presenting additional challenges for police. A coordinated international response is necessary to tackle this type of crime, especially as it moves from gambling dens to Internet-based illegal betting operations,” said Mr Stanfield.

To date, the combined seven SOGA operations have resulted in more than 30,000 arrests, the seizure of some USD 57 million in cash and the closure of more than 3,700 illegal gambling dens which handled almost USD 8 billion worth of bets.