Police arrest 16 triad suspects after $9m is wagered on the last day of the English Premier League season Police have smashed a major soccer gambling syndicate which took at least $9 million in illegal bets from Hong Kong fans wagering on the last day of the English Premier League season. Officers arrested 16 people from the bookmaking syndicate and seized about $100,000 in cash and betting slips with a face value of $9 million in the operation that ended early yesterday. Most of the money had been staked on Sunday night's matches, broadcast live on Cable TV, which included the relegation battle involving West Ham and Birmingham City and the showdown for a Champions League place between Chelsea and Liverpool. Nine computers allegedly used to store details of the bets were also seized. Yesterday, computer experts from the Commercial Crime Bureau were checking the seized computers to see how many punters had placed bets on soccer through the syndicate and how many betting orders had been collected. The raids, involving about 120 detectives from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau and the Hong Kong Island regional crime unit, began about 15 minutes before the English Premier League matches kicked off on Sunday. Senior Superintendent Lo Mung-hung, of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau, said bookmakers were found taking bets in 10 of the 21 locations raided. He said the betting centre locations included a mahjong parlour in Mongkok, a luxury apartment in Mid-Levels, a public housing unit and a village house. Some of those in the betting centres threw betting slips out of windows as officers broke into premises, Mr Lo said. The slips were retrieved. Officers said the syndicate was believed to be controlled by the Wo Hop To triad society and the 16 suspects, including five women, were also alleged members of the gang. 'Preliminary investigations showed that the syndicate had been operating for several years and its clients were local punters. It is one of the biggest soccer bookmaking syndicates as it had 10 betting centres on Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and in the New Territories,' Mr Lo said. 'We believe the suspected bookmakers collected bets through mobile phones. 'Like other illegal bookmaking syndicates, discounts were offered in an attempt to attract its clients. Punters were not required to pay deposits and they could bet on credit.' Last night, officers were still looking for the mastermind of the syndicate, whom they said was one of the office-bearers of the triad society. It is understood the man was not in Hong Kong during the raids. 'We believe we have dealt a heavy blow to the gang and forced it to cease its operation. We are determined to combat any illegal bookmaking activities,' Mr Lo said. Last night, the 16 suspects, aged between 30 and 40, were being held for questioning. A police spokesman said the crackdown was part of the effort to combat organised and serious crimes. 'We will continue to spare no efforts in eliminating triad-related and soccer-bookmaking activities,' he said. The government is expected to legalise soccer gambling through the Jockey Club this summer, partly to tackle illegal betting.