Mainland China police have apprehended 1,071 people allegedly involved in a large online gambling network, said Xinhua, an official news agency, in a report on Wednesday. The agency described it as the largest ever enforcement action against an illegal operation trading in bets on the results of China’s legal state lotteries – the welfare lottery and the sports lottery.
Xinhua cited Guangdong province’s public security department as the source of the announcement.
Police are said to have frozen bank accounts containing about RMB330 million (U$52.8 million), according to Lu Feng, an official with the department.
The suspects were detained between June and December last year. They included 15 people thought to have developed and operated illegal gambling platforms, and more than 1,000 people suspected of renting those platforms to run their own gambling operations.
A total of 570 of those initially held remain in detention, said Mr Lu.
The group, allegedly led by two men from Shantou, Guangdong, set up around 200 gambling websites, mostly on servers in Thailand. Each website was rented out for RMB70,000 to RMB100,000 per month, reported Xinhua.
The members-only websites attracted hundreds of thousands of gamblers who betted on the results of Chinese lotteries, according to Yu Canxian, head of the local public security department’s cyber crime unit.
Among the websites, 125 allowed people to bet on the results of Shishicai, a national lottery in China. The illegal operation is said to have attracted 400,000 members and the bets placed through the websites allegedly totalled RMB400 billion per month.
In December alone, members of the various websites are said to have lost RMB9 billion.
“Most of the gambling money was not frozen, because the transactions were done via cash and illegal private banks,” Mr Yu said.
The report did not give a reason for the delay to the official announcement about the arrests.
In a separate enforcement action directly related to the state lotteries, in late February the central government suspended the online sale of lottery tickets, reportedly to clean up the sector and citing concern about alleged illegal online practices by some sellers.
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