Investigators in Hong Kong and the mainland have smashed a cross-border gambling syndicate that took up to HK$500 million a day in illegal soccer bets, police said yesterday.
Police rounded up 29 people, including 26 in Hong Kong. A senior officer said it was probably the biggest such bust of a syndicate in the city's history.
Police confiscated records of HK$767 million in bets on soccer matches and horse racing from the syndicate's bases in Hong Kong and Guangdong after a months-long probe that ended in a series of raids on Sunday.
The arrests came days before the opening of soccer's World Cup finals in Brazil, and police said the syndicate had accepted millions of dollars in illegal bets on each warm-up match.
"In terms of the seizure of betting records and cash, I would say it is the biggest-ever bookmaking syndicate in the city's history," said Superintendent Dan Ng Wai-hon, of the police organised crime and triad bureau.
Ng said the syndicate had taken in up to HK$500 million in a day in illegal bets, but he didn't elaborate on those transactions.
Illegal sports betting in Hong Kong generated HK$500 billion in turnover last year and cost punters in the city HK$12 billion, the Post reported on Sunday.
Ng said the crackdown on Sunday delivered a strong message to those trying to get involved in bookmaking ahead of the World Cup finals.
"More such crackdowns will come," he said.
In Hong Kong, 22 men and four women were rounded up as more than 100 officers raided more than 20 locations. Police believe 11 are members of the 14K and Sun Yee On triad societies. They were arrested for taking illegal bets and money laundering.
The 11 included the alleged leader of the gambling ring, a 46-year-old Hong Kong man who is believed to be a 14K triad member. The man, who owns a food company, was picked up in his City Garden apartment in North Point.
Investigations showed more than HK$40 million in bank accounts linked to bookmaking activities, according to one police source. He said police would seek a court order to freeze the funds.
In Shenzhen and Dongguan , mainland police arrested two men and one woman and seized records of bets worth 320 million yuan (HK$397 million).
To collect online bets, the syndicate had at least three password-protected websites set up in South America, police said.
The syndicate allegedly accepted bets on soccer matches in Europe and South America and horse racing in Hong Kong, Australia and other countries.
"We believe the syndicate had thousands of customers" in Hong Kong, on the mainland, and outside the country, another police source said.
"Some punters were offered a credit limit of HK$50 million each."
Last night, all those arrested were being held for questioning but none had been charged.
Police believed the syndicate had been in operation for more than six months.
Hong Kong police have set up a task force with Macau and Guangdong authorities and will work in conjunction with Interpol in eight Asian countries to fight illegal soccer betting during the month-long World Cup tournament that starts on Thursday.