The 2014 World Cup is over, but the Las Vegas illegal betting scandal is only just beginning.
We’ve all enjoyed this full month of football action. Sports fans around the world are still feeling the buzz of the World Cup final. All bets have been settled and while some players have lost, bookmakers have certainly won a lot of business. Things are slowly quieting down on their end, but as far as police investigators are concerned, the action is just about to begin.
Before the beginning of the football championship, authorities promised to make extra efforts to hunt down illegal betting rings. But this threat did not scare the eight Asians who were running an illegal wagering business in the US and took millions of dollars in bets during this year’s tournament.
Recent gambling news report another World Cup betting ring was busted, this time in Las Vegas, where eight people from Malaysia, China and Hong Kong were caught running an illegal sports wagering operation.
Organized crime members
Malaysia doesn’t allow online gambling. During the World Cup, authorities have:
• blocked 1,791 gambling sites
• arrested 3,771 people
• found 236 bookies taking online bets from local players
The service was temporary and ring leaders only intended to cash in on the World Cup. The operation was run from exclusive high-roller villas located at a Las Vegas Strip resort. The lawbreakers were staying in luxury suites at Caesars Palace, where they had casino employees install Wi-Fi and DSL lines used to allow players to bet on sports in the US and worldwide.
Rumor has it the ring was led by 50-year-old Wei Seng Phua, a suspected organized crime member. The other seven people involved were also named in a criminal complaint which offered details about the betting scheme.
Phua asked the federal judge to allow him and his son, a co-defendant, to stay with a Las Vegas doctor until the preliminary hearing on August 4. The judge granted his request, but the man has to post a $2 million cash bail and wear a GPS monitoring device. In addition, he was forced to put up his $48 million private Gulfstream jet as collateral.
Phua’s lawyer, David Chesnoff, pointed out that his client has been cooperating with the police since the raid on July 9, adding that “he had access to an aircraft that can fly anywhere in the world”, but chose to stay put. It is estimated that the man’s wealth adds up to $400 million.
After raiding the suits at the Caesars hotel, FBI and Nevada Gaming Control Board agents found a laptop logging illegal bets. The computer contained other records too, indicating that its users were breaking American gambling laws by running an unlicensed wagering operation. Some of the transactions appeared to have been conducted over a website called “SBOBET”.
Police investigations revealed that Phua had led a similar operation in the world’s largest gambling hub, Macau. The man was caught and arrested on similar allegations on June 18, but he posted bail and left. According to US Attorney Daniel Bogden, the Las Vegas operation began shortly after Phua fled from Macau.
Bogden identified the Malaysian ring-leader as a high-ranking member of the 14K Triad organized crime group, but the defendant’s lawyer tried to minimize the implications by questioning whether the triad was still operating, or whether the allegation was “historical.”
Partners in crime
Among the seven other arrested was Phua’s 22 year-old son, Darren Wai Kit Phua. The rest of the betting ring members were identified as Seng Chen Yong and Wai Kin Yong, both from Malaysia, Hui Tang from China, and Yan Zhang, Yung Keung Fan and Herman Chun Sang Yeung, all from Hong Kong. The suspects did not enter pleas at the hearing.
According to the US attorney, the accused could get up to two years in federal prison for unlawful transmission and up to five years in prison for running an illegal gambling business. In addition to these sentences, they could end up paying fines of up to $250,000.
The casino employees said they cooperated and provided the customers with the services and equipment they asked for – several monitors and large TV screens tuned to World Cup matches – but became suspicious when it all started to look like a setup for an illegal gambling operation.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian police has also dealt with a lot of criminal activity during the World Cup. Authorities reported they have arrested a total of 3,771 people involved in illegal betting operations.
UPDATE: Sbobet later published a statement denying all allegations. Here is the full statement:
~ “Global online sportsbook SBOBET wishes to make it clear that recent press reports linking its name to a Wei Seng Phua (or Phua Wei Seng) who was arrested in the US for illegal online sports betting on the 2014 FIFA World Cup conducted out of a Las Vegas casino base are entirely without foundation.
Neither the accused nor those arrested with him have any involvement or association with the ownership or management of SBOBET, or with its operators, Celton Manx Limited and Richwell Ventures Limited.
Additionally, SBOBET wishes to clarify that the US is one of more than 30 jurisdictions worldwide from which it does not accept bets from and that any alleged wagers placed via SBOBET.com by the accused could only have been made illegally, as press reports confirm.” ~