Triads linked to Euro 2016 gambling ring as 50 arrested and HK$130 million in betting records confiscated

Some bets also placed on the Copa America tournament being played in the United States at the same time

Hong Kong police have confiscated about HK$130 million in betting records and arrested more than 50 people in a crackdown on illegal football gambling launched ahead of the Euro 2016 tournament.

One of the bookmaking rackets, which had raked in orders of HK$31 million, was broken up on June 10, hours before the opening match between France and Romania kicked off.

Some bets were placed on the Copa America tournament being played in the United States at the same time. During the final between Argentina and Chile on Monday morning (Hong Kong time), officers raided three locations, arrested three men and seized HK$5.5 million in betting slips.

More seizures and arrests are expected to be made before the crackdown, mounted by police in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong, ends on July 10, sources with knowledge of the operation said.

In Hong Kong, operation “crowbeak” is being coordinated by the organised crime and triad bureau.

Some ringleaders placed huge bets on overseas gambling websites to alleviate their risk, one source said. It is understood most of those arrested were bookmakers with triad backgrounds.

The source said the bookies had ditched their old methods of phone calls and betting slips.

“Investigations showed most punters communicated with bookies and placed their bets through WhatsApp messages that were encrypted.”

Bookmakers accept bets on credit and payments can be settled once a week

As a result, he said investigators had sought help from the cybersecurity and technology crime bureau.

The source said there were three main reasons why punters placed bets with illegal operators instead of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

“Bookmakers accept bets on credit and payments can be settled once a week,” he said.

“Illegal bookies also offer up to 20 per cent discounts to punters. Punters [with huge bets] are even given a margin so that they do not need to pay any money before the end of the tournament if the total amount of bets is below the margin.”

He said bookmakers also offered a variety of betting combinations that were not available at the Jockey Club. It is understood bookies are paid a commission of several per cent of the bet to get them to find more punters.

Hong Kong police are understood to have been working with their counterparts in Macau and Guangdong to find out whether a cross-border soccer gambling syndicate was operating.

Police also seized about HK$400,000 in cash along with mobile phones, computers and a small quantity of illegal drugs during the operation.

Another source said the total amount of soccer betting slips seized in the operation surpassed the amount seized in the whole of last year.

During the 2014 World Cup, Hong Kong police arrested 176 people and seized HK$750 million in illegal soccer bets – more than double the amount taken during the 2010 tournament.

Under the Gambling Ordinance, anyone convicted of bookmaking faces a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a HK$5 million fine. The penalty for placing bets is a nine-month prison term and fine of HK$30,000.

Source: South China Morning Post

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