ICAC cracks down on football gambling syndicate, 12 men arrested

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29th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has detained 12 men, linked to an illegal betting syndicate involving local football teams. The operation, dubbed “Operation Green Grass,” targets corrupt activities that have reportedly marred multiple football seasons since 2021.

The ICAC’s latest crackdown follows a meticulous investigation into the gambling ring, which has been influencing game outcomes in the Hong Kong Super League and lower divisions. On Monday, the ICAC’s enforcement division, led by Principal Investigator Matthew Chang, executed arrests across the city, capturing individuals aged between 24 to 55, including the syndicate’s masterminds and key operatives.

According to Paul Lau, Chief Investigator at the ICAC, the investigation uncovered that players were allegedly offered bribes ranging from thousands to tens of thousands per game to manipulate the number of goals, corners, and other game statistics. Coaches reportedly used subtle signals such as adjusting their hats, handling water bottles, or removing jackets to issue instructions. These signals coordinated actions on the field while bets were placed by trusted associates and family members, doubling their illicit earnings, with some bets reaching up to HK$1 million per season.

The arrested individuals include a prominent coach and a goalkeeper from a top-tier Hong Kong Premier League team, and five participants from a second division team, highlighting the extensive nature of the corruption. Three additional arrests were made of intermediaries known locally as ‘boat people’, who facilitated the betting outside the official channels.