In South Korea, authorities have arrested 17 people in a bust of two illicit online sports betting operations, seizing KRW1.95bn ($1.7m) in cash in the process. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Two high-value operations
In the latest illegal gambling bust in Asia, South Korean police have arrested members of two sports betting operations said to be worth a combined KRW900bn ($797m).
they apprehended 38 people, arresting 17 for operating the sites
As reported by The Korea Herald, the country’s cybercrime investigation team revealed details of the bust on Monday. Police raided offices of the two gambling operations and the residences of their operators. In doing so, they apprehended 38 people, arresting 17 for operating the sites and booking 17 users for breaching South Korea’s National Sports Promotion Act.
In addition to the arrests, the investigation team seized cash and real estate worth KRW8.12bn ($7.2m). This included KRW1.95bn ($1.7m) in cash winnings from the websites, in addition to three apartments and two detached houses supposedly bought with profits.
One suspect on the run
According to The Korea Herald, South Korean police are still on the hunt for one of the main culprits in the illegal gambling operations. Authorities believe the 40-year-old man operated one of the gambling sites from March 2016 until recently, taking illegal profits while managing employees in various teams.
Although land-based casino gambling is legal in South Korea, online gambling is currently against the law. Additionally, the government holds a monopoly over sports wagering through betting service SportsToto, meaning police crackdowns heavily target any betting sites.
The fugitive’s website, which eventually had around 3,300 members, supposedly generated an estimated KRW800bn ($707.5m). In addition to South Korean gamblers, it also catered to users in Vietnam, China, and other countries.
Added to this, police also believe the suspect helped one of his co-conspirators set up the second online gambling site in 2018. Authorities said this betting operation took around KRW100bn ($88.4m) from its 1,800 members between June 2018 and March of last year.
Although 17 members of the two gambling rings are now in custody, the main 40-year-old culprit has supposedly escaped abroad. He is now on Interpol’s most wanted list.
Gambling crackdowns in Asia
South Korea is not the only Asian country with illegal gambling operations. Police in several nations across the continent have made a large number of arrests recently by busting gambling rings.
busted more than 2,260 online platforms, destroyed more than 1,960 illegal payment platforms, and seized substantial funds
Chinese police made more than 75,000 illegal gambling arrests last year alone. Authorities busted more than 2,260 online platforms, destroyed more than 1,960 illegal payment platforms, and seized substantial funds throughout 2020. The busts included an additional 3,500 cross-border gambling cases through collaboration with authorities in the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
Last year in Vietnam meanwhile, police dismantled a gambling ring worth an estimated $2.6bn. It represented one the largest gambling raids in the country’s history. The online gambling site allowed users to purchase credit from agents to gamble.
Elsewhere, Thailand has ramped up its own illegal gambling crackdown in 2021. In January, the government created three new subcommittees tasked with tackling the illicit activity. Thai officials believe gambling dens have been contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in the country.