Vietnam Billion-Dollar Illegal Gambling Ring Likely Focused on Sports Betting

Posted on: April 27, 2019, 09:13h. 

Last updated on: April 27, 2019, 09:13h.

Vietnam police arrested at least 22 people this week in connection with a massive $1.28 billion gambling ring that may have involved hundreds of thousands of user accounts. It is believed to be the largest illegal online gaming operation ever in the East Asian nation.

Vietnam’s President Nguyen Phu Trong has led a crackdown on illegal gaming and corruption. (Image: Nguoi Viet)

Twelve of the suspects ran the operation with one of them — still to be named publicly — seen as the mastermind of the scheme. He was described by authorities as a foreigner.

The suspects were detained on charges of gambling or organizing gambling after hundreds of police officers carried out multiple searches in the past seven days at locations nationwide.

People were questioned in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and in five provinces. Based on initial reports, the ring involved betting on soccer games and other sporting events.

The Thanh Nien newspaper provided few details on the inquiry but reported that police said the ring was very “sophisticated.” It was also “difficult to detect” because funds were hidden by using bank accounts with smaller balances, the newspaper said.

Online patrons went onto a website and paid legal currency in exchange for virtual money that was kept in covert accounts. Some of those involved hired people to open bank accounts for them in secret so they could take part in the operation.

To further complicate the inquiry, organizers used a server which was located outside of Vietnam, police said.

Generally, World Cup or European championships in soccer have led to increased illegal gambling operations in Vietnam, according to the Agence France-Presse, citing unnamed law enforcement sources.

Illegal Gambling, Corruption

This week’s arrests and raids come after another widespread crackdown on a separate $420 million illegal gambling ring. It has involved high-ranking Vietnamese government officials.

Dang Anh Tuan, 49, chief inspector of Vietnam’s Information Ministry, was arrested Thursday by local authorities in connection with that gambling ring.

He is suspected of violating laws on taking undue advantage of his government post — which he has held since 2015, according to Vn Express International. He allegedly failed to act promptly after gambling violations were discovered as far back as 2016.

Police in Phu Tho Province initially uncovered the gambling ring in 2016 after looking into a related fraud case. As their inquiry expanded, last year officials arrested Phan Van Vinh, a former director of the General Police Department, and Nguyen Thanh Hoa, a former director of the Department for High-Tech Crime Prevention.

The pair was put on trial. They were found guilty of “abusing power or position in the performance of official duties.”

Vinh was sentenced to nine years in prison and Hoa was sentenced to 10 years. Both were fined VND100 million (US $4,300).

That ring in total involved over 90 people with many of them paying fines or sentenced to prison.

In an unrelated case, police earlier this month searched an illegal gambling den located in a wooded area in Gia Lai Province. Approximately 130 gamblers were found and later held by authorities, according to local news reports. Police also seized about VND300 million (US $12,900).

In still another series of arrests, Vietnam police — also this month — arrested three South Korean men in connection with an online illegal gambling ring. It involved about 8.6 billion KRW (US $7.3 million).

Under Vietnam’s leader, Nguyen Phu Trong, the communist nation has undertaken a far-reaching investigation into corruption and illegal gambling.

Since 2011, Trong was general secretary of the Communist Party and in October was named the nation’s president. This week, it was revealed that Trong, 75, is hospitalized for an unidentified illness.

Casinos Attract Foreigners, Wealthier Residents

Legal gambling is also opening up in Vietnam. As of January, residents with sufficient incomes could wager in their own country at a brick-and-mortar venue — at least during a three-year test period — in the new Corona Casino on Phu Quoc Island.