Police Confirm Major Hong Kong Gambling Bust
Police have confirmed having busted wide open a massive illegal gambling ring operated by a Hong Kong syndicate. The illegal organisation had allegedly prompted players to play everything from online Blackjack to Poker and dice games on its rogue online gambling site. The only operator permitted to provide betting and gaming services to the citizens of Hong Kong is the state-governed Hong Kong Jockey Club. The state entity enjoys a monopoly on horse races, state lotteries and all other forms of betting on sports.
A raid conducted by Hong Kong police eventually recently led to the arrest of 17 alleged key role-players involved in the illegal operation. The organisation had apparently tapped into a foreign gambling and bookmaking website for the purposes of offering gambling and betting services to local players and sports bettors and had over the course of only 14 months managed to siphon at least US$17.2 million in ill-begotten funds from local users.
Prison Time A Done Deal
During the raid, police managed to confiscate a myriad of evidence in the form of laptops, smartphones and credit cards. Suspects involved in what police had coined operation “Deepskill” are currently being detained for questioning. Of those arrested by the local police force, 9 were men and 8 were women.
If found guilty, those arrested face spending up to 7 years behind Hong Kong prison bars. In the event that money laundering is cited as an additional charge, the maximum penalty in terms of prison time automatically increases to 14 years. Illegal bookmaking carries the same penalty as money laundering. A fine of at least US$645,000 is in the offing for each member found guilty of any of the above offenses.
The Criminal Modus Operandi
The syndicate allegedly went about its business by recruiting willing bookmakers who would then invite local bettors to gamble on a specified foreign-operated online site. In order to dodge being detected by Hong Kong’s cyber police, the website server would sporadically jump between various parts of Europe and North America, making it extremely difficult to detect.
Rogue bookies working for the syndicate would typically generate gamblers and bettors willing to engage by scouting for customers on social media platforms. They also made use of personal referrals. The next step would be to assist gamblers and bettors with the creation of online accounts linked to the foreign site in question. The bookies themselves managed to remain undetected by local financial watchdogs by moving money through various accounts before tapping into he services of money changers in order to withdraw the actual cash. This is of course tantamount to outright money laundering.
According to the Narcotics Bureau’s Financial Investigation Unit, the operation had been actively doing business since December 2017.