Thousands arrested in Asia soccer gambling raids

Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:10pm EDT
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By Victoria Bryan

PARIS (Reuters) - More than 5,000 people have been arrested in a swoop on illegal gambling on World Cup soccer across Asia and police have seized nearly $10 million, Interpol said on Friday.

The global police cooperation agency said raids on nearly 800 illegal gambling dens between June 11 and July 11 targeted illicit betting linked to organized crime in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and China.

"As well as having clear connections to organized crime gangs, illegal soccer gambling is also linked with corruption, money laundering and prostitution," said Jean-Michel Louboutin, executive director of police services.

The coordinated police operation, codenamed SOGA III, was not about match-fixing, a spokeswoman for Interpol said.

Illegal gambling dens, including some in Hong Kong and casino haven Macau -- both former colonial enclaves which are now parts of China -- had taken more than $155 million in bets.

Police also seized cars, bank cards, computers and mobile phones during the raids, which were coordinated by Interpol's headquarters in Lyon and its Bangkok liaison office.

"The results we have seen are impressive, not only in the number of arrests and seizures made across the region in just one month, but in terms of the police cooperation which made this possible," Louboutin said.

The three SOGA operations carried out so far have led to nearly 7,000 arrests, the seizure of over $26 million in cash and the closure of illegal gambling dens that handled more than $2 billion worth of bets.   Continued...

<p>Interpol released July 16, 2010 this undated photo which shows betting records and cash that were seized in Singapore during an operation targeting illegal soccer gambling in Asia during the World Cup. REUTERS/Interpol/Handout</p>