18 arrested in Singapore soccer betting ring
Cash totalling S$1.4 million as well as computers, mobile phones, and documents detailing betting and bank transaction records were seized
Singapore police said they have arrested 18 people believed to be part of a multimillion-dollar illegal soccer betting ring less than a month before the World Cup starts.
"Preliminary investigations revealed that the suspects are believed to have received illegal soccer bets amounting to an estimated S$8 million [HK$49.5 million] in the past two weeks alone," the Singapore police force said.
It did not reveal the nationalities of the suspects, 16 women and two men, who were detained during raids on Sunday and Monday.
Cash totalling S$1.4 million as well as computers, mobile phones, and documents detailing betting and bank transaction records were seized during the raids, police said.
"Bookmakers and bettors who assume that they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet to commit criminal offences should think twice," deputy assistant commissioner of police Kenny Tan warned.
"The police will find them and prosecute both bookmakers and bettors alike to the fullest extent of the law."
If convicted, the suspects face fines of between S$20,000 and S$200,000 and up to five years in jail.
Sports betting is deeply entrenched in the wealthy jurisdiction of Singapore, with top European league matches the most favoured among punters.
The Singapore Totalisator Board, which manages the country's two legal soccer betting and lottery companies, saw revenue of US$983.3 million in the year to March 2013, from a total population of just 5.4 million.
Experts say there are dozens of illegal soccer betting outfits in the city state.
Last year, Singapore police arrested 14 people believed to be members of a global match-fixing syndicate, including the suspected mastermind Dan Tan.
In June last year, three Lebanese referees were convicted by a Singapore court of accepting sexual services in return for fixing future games.
Singaporean businessman Eric Ding, accused of offering the bribes, is on trial.
The recent arrests come days after the Doha-based watchdog group International Centre for Sport Security warned in a report that Asian-dominated criminal groups are laundering more than US$140 billion of illegal sports betting, mainly on soccer.