Former Macau junket operator and multimillionaire Paul Phua Wei-seng walked free from court yesterday after a Las Vegas judge dismissed an illegal gambling case against him on the back of constitutional violations. The high-rolling professional poker player is now free to return to his native Malaysia and will be given back his US$48 million private jet, his passport and US$2 million bail – much of which had been paid by two US poker stars. The dismissal of the illegal gaming and conspiracy charges brings to a close a high-profile case that grabbed headlines worldwide since Phua, 51, was arrested during a raid on a series of luxury villas at the Caesars Palace resort last July. The raid by federal agents provided prosecutors with a glut of materials allegedly linking Phua to an online soccer World Cup betting scheme worth millions of dollars. However, last week US District Judge Andrew Gordon tossed the bulk of the evidence on the basis that the search warrant for the raid was flawed due to errors and omissions by the US authorities. Gordon also said that Phua had his privacy rights violated when FBI agents, posing as internet repairmen, went undercover into the residence in a bid to gather information before the raid. Prosecutors fought the decision to dismiss the case, but Gordon said it was the appropriate decision considering there was no longer evidence to present at the trial, slated to begin in two weeks. Defence counsel Thomas Goldstein said Phua’s “faith in the American justice system was completely vindicated.” “Paul Phua stayed in the United States to defeat these charges because he was innocent and because the government’s misconduct made the case even more unjust,” Goldstein said. Phua – who originally hails from Sarawak but maintains business interests in Hong Kong – was the last remaining defendant in the case after six others, including his son, took plea deals in March. Darren Phua, 23, pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanour charge and was handed five years unsupervised probation. The case received international attention earlier this year when it was revealed that Malaysia’s Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had vouched for Phua in a letter to a senior FBI official. In the “private and confidential letter,” Zahid denied allegations by the bureau that Phua is a member of Hong Kong’s notorious 14K triad. He also claimed Phua was assisting the nation on issues of national security. “Mr Phua has, on numerous occassions [sic], assisted the Government of Malaysia on projects affecting our national security and accordingly we continue to call upon him to assist us from time to time and as such we are eager for him to return to Malaysia,” Zahid wrote in the letter dated December 18. Phua was Macau’s top earning junket operator a decade ago, before becoming a prominent high-stakes poker player. In 2011, he was granted a diplomatic passport by the European microstate of San Marino as its ambassador to Montenegro. In June last year, he was arrested in Macau in a crackdown on an online betting ring that, according to Macau police, took HK$5 billion in wagers. He was deported from the territory. The raid remains the largest strike on illegal bookmaking in the gambling hub’s history.