Bust spanned seven locations
Cybercrime police in Thailand conducted raids on eight premises involved in an illegal online gambling operation that has handled over ฿1bn ($33.2m) in transactions.
The crackdown operations took place simultaneously on Wednesday and saw the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB) arrest 34 people across the provinces of Chiang Mai, Chaiyaphum, Rayong, Saraburi, Pathum Thani, and Ayutthaya, as well as in Bangkok. 19 of those arrested as part of operation “Shadow App” had outstanding arrest warrants, with the remaining 15 said to be operating the illegal casinos.
All suspects admitted to the operation of an illegal gambling website. Their charges relate to collusion through operating an online gambling website or collusion in laundering illegal money, or indirectly or directly persuading people to gamble. Three further suspects are still at large.
Officers confiscated ฿2m ($66,401) in cash, plus eight cars, 54 cellphones, and 45 bank account books, according to a Bangkok Post report. Each of the bank accounts was under the name of different suspects and contained transactions ranging between ฿10m ($332,005) and ฿70m ($2.32m) per month.
Inner workings of the online network
The authorities in Thailand began an investigation after learning about the illegal online gambling operation. They discovered Royal Slot 777 Casino, a downloadable app that was allowing Apple and Android users to gamble illegally in the country. The operation was catering to thousands of users for about a year.
The online gambling network had offices in various provinces in order to oversee the operations in each region. Some of the businesses that were acting as fronts for the illegal gambling operation included property management and transportation companies. According to police, Chinese nationals own each of the front companies.
Battling illegal gambling in Thailand
The authorities in Thailand have been cracking down on illegal gambling in recent times. And it is not just online gambling activity that is an issue. Officials blame gambling dens for leading to the spread of COVID-19, and a number of government committees were set up to tackle the problem.
officials blame gambling dens for leading to the spread of COVID-19
Thai police have conducted numerous raids during the pandemic to shut down such operations. Last June, the authorities raided an illegal gambling operation in a hotel, leading to 224 arrests. In early January this year, Bangkok police shut down five illegal gambling venues in the region, leading to 21 arrests.
Currently, horse race betting and the state lottery are the only forms of legal gambling allowed in the country. However, Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is now ready to consider potentially allowing a regulated gambling market. While personally against gambling legalization, he said he is open to public discussions on the issue.