Police arrest 57 people in crackdown on illegal gambling networks, seizing HK$460m in bets

262

17th June 2024 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong police have intensified their efforts to combat illegal gambling as the European Championship gets underway. The Organised Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB) has targeted five active local offshore networks, arresting 57 individuals on charges of “conspiring to collect illegal bets” and “money laundering.” The arrested individuals, aged between 18 and 74, include key members, intermediaries, and dummy account holders. Investigations reveal that these five networks have collected a total of HK$460 million in illegal gambling deposits since the beginning of the year, involving various sports such as football, horse racing, and online card games.

Authorities have observed a digital trend in offshore activities, with data being stored on non-local servers. The OCTB initiated the “Nearspace operation” earlier this year to crack down on illegal gambling websites and enforce the law against the five active offshore networks operating locally.

Last Thursday, law enforcement carried out the operation, resulting in the arrest of 49 men and 8 women. The detained individuals include five key members, nearly 20 intermediaries involved in website operations and money laundering, as well as dummy account holders. Some of those arrested have ties to triad organizations. All individuals have been arrested on charges of “conspiring to collect illegal bets” and “money laundering,” and have been granted bail pending further investigation.

During the operation, it was discovered that the five offshore networks had collected HKD 460 million in illegal gambling deposits since the beginning of the year. Authorities found that 20 of the arrested individuals were in possession of accounts used to collect bets. Additionally, electronic devices and login accounts of intermediaries revealed a total of HKD 164 million in records related to football, horse racing, and online casino gambling. It is possible that these records include the betting activities of their clients.

Further investigations revealed that some individuals willingly provided their bank accounts, stored-value accounts, and online payment tools to criminal syndicates, implicating all arrested individuals in the crimes of “conspiring to collect illegal bets” and “money laundering.”

Notably, some of the offshore networks falsely claim to be legally registered overseas. However, the police emphasized that any website other than those approved by Hong Kong laws is considered illegal. According to the Gambling Ordinance, individuals found guilty of betting with unauthorised bookmakers can face imprisonment for up to nine months and a fine of HK$50,000. Those involved in illegal bookmaking can face a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a fine of HK$5 million.