Around 1,400 people were arrested following thousands of raids by specialised police officers across 28 Asian and European countries in Interpol’s latest crackdown on illegal gambling and related money laundering activities.
Authorities seized $7.9m (€6.69m) in cash, as well as computers and mobile phones connected to nearly $465m in bets in the eighth Soga (soccer gambling) operation coordinated by the international police organisation timed to coincide with the Euro 2020 football tournament.
“Illegal gambling generates significant profits for organised crime networks and is often closely associated with other crimes such as money laundering and corruption,” said Interpol.
On criminal trends, the organisation commented: “This year’s operation showed a clear shift to online activities, with criminals taking full advantage of financial technology, including the use of international gambling websites and online bank accounts.
“Additionally, officers saw increased activity in online gaming platforms, forums and social media, where individuals would offer gambling tips or even payment to those willing to open online bank accounts for money transfers.”
Hong Kong Police detained more than 800 suspects, including the alleged kingpin of a triad-controlled bookmaking syndicate, seizing nearly $2.7m in cash and records detailing hundreds of millions in bets, making it one of their most successful operations against illegal gambling ever.
Roberto Ribaudo, director of Interpol’s economic and financial crime division in Rome, said: “Italian authorities carried out a nationwide operation during Euro 2020, resulting in the inspection of 280 betting shops and €1.3m in sanctions for illegal betting operations.”
The participating countries were Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and Vietnam.
Interpol’s eight Soga operations have to date resulted in more than 19,100 arrests, seizure of £63m-plus in cash and closure of more than 4,000 illegal gambling dens which handled over $7.3bn worth of bets.
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