A total of 99 suspects have been arrested in China and the Philippines on suspicion of involvement in organising online gambling. The detentions followed a joint operation by law enforcement authorities in the two countries.
The news was released by China’s Ministry of Public Security on Wednesday, state-owned news agency Xinhua reported.
Some forms of online gambling have previously been licensed by the Philippine authorities, but Chinese law prohibits its citizens from engaging in such activity.
The report stated a total of four gambling websites had been shut down during the operation. It added that more than 1,100 bank accounts and more than RMB70 million (US$10.16 million) of “illicit gains” had been frozen, according to China’s security ministry.
Xinhua said 55 suspects had been returned to China from the Philippines on Tuesday. The report didn’t clarify if those people were Chinese citizens.
But it said those held allegedly earned almost RMB600 million via online casinos that were based in the Philippines and were targeted at gamblers from mainland China.
“It is the first cross-border online gambling case jointly handled by the Chinese police and [a] foreign counterpart since China decided to crack down on such crimes,” the Xinhua report said.
It quoted China’s Ministry of Public Security saying it would continue “to intensify its investigation and handling of such cases and will also look to strengthen international cooperation in its efforts”.
Public Security Minister Guo Shengkun warned in March that China was to increase its efforts to suppress any attempts to entice Chinese people to visit overseas casinos to gamble. Chinese authorities would also step up action against illegal gambling, he said at the time.
The China-Philippines joint operation comes after more than 1,300 Chinese nationals were detained in November at Fontana Hot Spring Leisure Parks at Clark, Philippines. They were suspected of working illegally for an online gambling operator.
Fontana was at the time operated by Jimei Group, a firm headed by Jack Lam Yin Lok, a veteran investor in Macau junkets.
A proxy betting operation at Fontana – i.e., games conducted at physical casino tables with real dealers but with bets on the games accepted over the telephone, or via Voice Over Internet Protocol-enabled devices, from customers not physically present at the casino – had been mentioned in previous investment analyst notes.
Following the case at Fontana, the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte ordered in December the seizure of all gaming assets in that country belonging to Mr Lam for the latter’s alleged failure to pay the correct taxes, local media reported at the time. Prior to that, Mr Duterte had ordered the arrest of Mr Lam on accusations of bribery and economic sabotage.
Mr Lam is not known to have issued any public statement or made any public appearance since the late November raids at his Fontana premises. Mr Lam, a Chinese national, reportedly left the Philippines on November 29.
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"The ICAC in Hong Kong has the authority to detain people or to arrest people. But being detained or arrested – and actually being charged – are completely different things"
Japanese gaming entrepreneur