4,100 held in raids in 11 countries
Euro 2016 sports gambling operation
More than 4,100 people have been arrested worldwide, including 39 in Singapore, and more than US$13 million (S$17.5 million) seized across Asia in operations targeting illegal gambling during the Euro 2016 football tournament, Interpol said yesterday.
Interpol, which called Operation SOGA VI (short for soccer gambling) the "most significant in recent years", said more than 4,000 raids were carried out in 11 countries, including China, France, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, on dens estimated to have handled US$649 million worth of bets.
The Singapore Police Force (SPF) also participated in this operation, where law enforcement agencies co-ordinated efforts to combat illegal football gambling.
As part of this operation, SPF said it had arrested 39 suspects believed to be involved in remote gambling activities.
Preliminary investigations also revealed that the value of illegal bets collected by these suspects had totalled over $2.5 million, said SPF in a news release.
Cash of more than $650,000, computers, laptops, modems, routers, mobile phones and other items believed to be used to facilitate illegal betting activities were seized.
SPF said it also seized more than $810,000 from the suspects' banks accounts through follow-up investigations.
Investigations against all the suspects are ongoing.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations & Intelligence) concurrent Director of the Criminal Investigation Department Tan Chye Hee said: "The series of operations conducted in Singapore reinforces the Police's determination to stamp out unlawful remote gambling.
"The Singapore Police Force will continue to work with Interpol and our foreign counterparts to take tough enforcement actions against those who flout the law."
Chief Superintendent Chan Lok-wing, Head of Hong Kong's Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, said: "The number of seizures is the highest and most significant amongst similar operations in recent years.
"The SOGA operations are important for tackling not just illegal gambling, but also the organised networks behind this and other types of crime."
A second operation targeted transnational networks behind illegal websites and call-centre type operations, Interpol said in a statement from Bangkok. Reuters was not able to immediately reach Thailand's Interpol director for comment.
The arrests come amid a record spike in illegal online gambling in China with millions of yuan placed in bets on Euro 2016, a side-effect of a surge in Chinese interest in global football.
Portugal were crowned the Euro 2016 champions on July 10, defeating host nation France 1-0 to win their first major championship.