Police in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have arrested more than 5,000 people in a coordinated swoop against illegal football betting during the World Cup, Interpol said today. The international police agency, which helped coordinate the month-long operation, said officers had raided more than 800 illegal gambling dens that had handled more than US$155 million (Dh569m) in bets. "The results we have seen are impressive," said Interpol executive director for police services Jean-Michel Louboutin, in a statement released by the agency's headquarters in Lyon, central France.
"As well as having clear connections to organised crime, illegal soccer gambling is also linked with corruption, money laundering and prostitution," he said, declaring a blow had been struck against underworld gangs. The operation ran between June 11 and July 11, during a time when hundreds of millions of fans around the globe were glued to their television screens, following the action from the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa.
Many supporters were also tempted to gamble on the results, sometimes legally and sometimes with unlicensed and often crooked bookmakers. In the operation, police seized $10m in cash along with other alleged criminal assets such as cars, bank cards, computers and mobile phones, Mr Louboutin said in his statement. "The information gathered will now be reviewed and analysed to determine the potential involvement of other individuals or gangs across the region and beyond," he warned.
The World Cup operation was dubbed SOGA III, following two previous but smaller series of raids. In all, these operations have led to nearly 7,000 arrests, the seizure of more than $26m in cash and the closure of illegal gambling dens which handled more than two billion dollars' worth of bets, Interpol said. * AFP