BUSINESS

Asian police blotter: online gambling busts in West Java, Borneo, Japan

TAGs: Borneo, Indonesia, Japan, malaysia

asian-gambling-bustsPolice in Bogor, West Java have broken up an operation run by what the Jakarta Post referred to as a “big online gambling group from the US.” Following a month-long investigation, the National Police cyber crimes unit arrested four suspects on Oct. 5 for operating an online poker site via the nagaemas.com and Jakarta.com domains. Police also seized the standard evidence: computers, mobile phones, ledgers, etc. The four suspects – identified only by the initials HD, MD, OM and RF – were charged with violations of the Information and Transaction Law and the Law on Money Laundering. We love initials because they offer carte blanche for rampant speculation. Say, has anyone seen Rafe Furst lately?

The Java bust wasn’t the only recent Asian police action against online gambling. Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested three individuals last week for running a clandestine online casino called Internet Nevada. Tokyo Broadcasting Television reported that proprietor Takeshi Yoshida readily admitted he’d let his customers play baccarat and poker online. “I thought it was a quick and easy way to earn money.” Touché.

Police in Limbang, Borneo raided an illegal internet café that was being used for gambling purposes, but the suspects escaped out the back while police were busy cutting through a padlock out front. The Borneo Post quoted local assemblyman Yap Hoi Liong saying he was glad the police were being diligent about cracking down on such establishments, but he noted it took two to tango. “[People] should have self-control and live a righteous life.” So how long will it be before some plucky Malaysian entrepreneur launches RighteousGambling.com?

Last week also saw former Daio Paper Corp. chairman Mototaka Ikawa sentenced to four years in a Japanese prison for blowing ¥5.53b (US $70.5m) of company funds at casinos in Macau and Singapore. In May 2010, the 48-year-old grandson of the company’s founder began diverting company funds into his personal accounts to cover his losses at the gaming tables. The discovery of the missing funds ultimately led to Ikawa’s resignation in September 2011.

Ikawa’s antics likely won’t be appreciated by those Japanese legislators currently struggling to liberalize their country’s gambling market via the construction of integrated resort casinos. The anti-gambling faction will no doubt find Ikawa’s theft a great asset for illustrating the supposed evils of gambling. However, it’s important to remember that the crime Ikawa committed here was theft, not gambling. Much as the (alleged) crime committed by UBS rogue trader Kweku Adoboli – who used company funds to cover up over $2b in losses created by his trades – was not investment banking but fraud. In both cases, people displayed incredibly poor judgment by using someone else’s money to chase their own losses. But if Ikawa’s case demonstrates the need to keep Japanese casinos illegal, then Adoboli’s case should justify the shuttering of Japan’s banks. Or would that be, you know, dumb?

Finally, the play of the week belongs to a gambler in Indonesia‘s ultra-conservative Banda Aceh province, where the law of the land is the ultra-strict Sharia variety. The unidentified gambler was one of four individuals police caught betting on a game of dominoes in a coffee shop. The other three gamblers were publicly caned after Friday prayers, but our boy escaped a similar fate after calling in sick. Ingenious. Ray Bitar should have thought of that one…

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