The Guangdong police have arrested 218 suspects allegedly involved in running illegal gambling websites that made unauthorised use of trademarked Macau casino names, Chinese-language media reported. The sites allegedly lured players via promotional text messages sent to mobile phones.
The crackdown has been termed by the police as targeting the “biggest online scam” in recent years. The fraud was said to have generated RMB140 million (US$21.5 million) for the suspects via gambling losses from more than 1,000 victims, mostly mainland Chinese, said Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department in a press briefing.
The investigation began in March last year, prompted by complaints received by police in the city of Foshan, Guangdong.
Names of legitimate Macau casino brands protected by trademark – including “Grand Lisboa”, “Galaxy”, and “Venetian Macao” – were used by the illegal websites for the online fraud, which in some cases involved websites accepting players’ money and rigging the games, according to media reports. The websites, which were operated in Chinese language versions only, hosted online casino games; some featuring human dealers filmed via live video streams, the police said in the briefing.
Some victims were requested to place money in designated accounts in order to buy virtual gaming chips and play the online casino games, the police said.
The websites were found to be hosted by servers located in Poipet, Cambodia, a town on the latter country’s border with Thailand. The aim of hosting the sites overseas was to “avoid investigation”, the Guangdong police said in the press conference.
On March 1 raids in Poipet involving the Cambodian and Chinese police resulted in the arrest of dozens of Chinese nationals, according to media reports from Cambodia. On Wednesday Chinese media reported that 38 of those arrested in some Poipet raids were wanted in China in connection with illegal gambling websites and online transfer of fraudulently obtained money. The reports added that the suspects had been flown back to China on March 12.
Key suspects at the Guangdong end of the operation and at Poipet end were said to be from Fujian province, according to media reports.
The large-scale crackdown, launched by the Guangdong police at the beginning of this month, has deployed more than 1,000 police officers to make the arrests across 18 Chinese provinces.
Last October, Cambodian authorities arrested a group of about 170 Chinese nationals in a villa and guesthouse in the coastal city of Sihanoukville for pending warrants in mainland China. The operation was also coordinated with Chinese authorities and was an investigation into what the authorities termed voice over Internet protocol extortion crimes.
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"The [Macau] government has a lead in this subject in regards to what should be done after the [gaming] concessions expire. We will be first listening to what the government will say”
Ambrose So Shu Fai
Vice-chairman and chief executive at Macau casino operator SJM Holdings