A plan of action to tackle regional criminal activity associated with gambling was announced on Tuesday by officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) together with China, as a partner country. The deal is supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The “Regional Cooperation Roadmap to Address Transnational Organized Crime and Trafficking in Persons Associated with Casinos and Scam Operations in Southeast Asia” was unveiled in Bangkok, Thailand.
It features a total of 30 specific actions agreed among the signatory parties, in order to address transnational organised crime and trafficking in persons associated with casinos and scam operations.
These include to “revise and strengthen legislative and regulatory frameworks that govern the licensing, operations, and provision of entertainment industries such as casinos, gaming, and online betting, and other establishments and technologies that are at risk of being used to facilitate transnational organised crime, including cybercrime.”
It is also proposed that ASEAN countries and China “establish mechanisms to review profiles of investors in casinos, including online platforms and junket operations, and special economic zones, to determine if there are associations with organised crime, and to determine beneficial ownership.”
The roadmap advocates that the signatory parties “invest in improving financial and technological literacy, particularly among communities who are most likely to be targeted by criminal groups associated with casinos and scam operations.”
The document states that “casino and scam operations run by transnational organised crime groups have become a significant and growing problem in Southeast Asia”. It adds that “major organised crime groups have established extensive criminal operations in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and other countries”.
“They have taken advantage of the existing casino and special economic zone infrastructure and unemployment present in the region to set up sophisticated online scam operations that defraud people around the world, and utilise trafficked victims to perform various criminal acts,” it adds.
The plan acknowledges that, “by its very nature, transnational organised crime and trafficking in persons associated with casinos and scams cannot be efficiently addressed by each state on its own”. It requires “a targeted, comprehensive, coordinated, and regional approach”.
A news release about this initiative, issued by the U.N., quoted Jeremy Douglas, UNODC regional representative to Southeast Asia and the Pacific, as saying that “trafficking in persons connected to casinos and scam operations run by organised crime has mushroomed across Southeast Asia, particularly in the Mekong [region].”
He added: “There is an urgent need for regional cooperation to address these increasingly integrated and interlinked crimes in the region, as well as the ecosystem they exist in.”
In recent years, China has established a number of bilateral agreements with Southeast Asian nations to boost cooperation in combating cross-border illegal activities connected with gambling. Earlier this month, China’s Minister of Public Security, Wang Xiaohong, and his Vietnam counterpart, General To Lam, signed a memorandum of understanding on bilateral cooperation in combatting “cross-border gambling” activities, reported China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
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