Now that the much-ballyhooed Mayan Apocalypse has failed to materialize, there may be no more embarrassed doomsayers than the fringe Christian group Almighty God aka Eastern Lightning, 500 members of which were arrested in China ahead of Friday’s supposed end of the world. The group has been accused of kidnapping and beating up the country’s ‘regular’ Christians to convert them to the cult’s belief system, which maintains that Christ has reappeared as a woman in China, possibly because that’s where one finds the best fake Louis Vuitton purses. China’s crackdown may have had a little more to do with the cult’s recent call to “exterminate the great red dragon” aka the Communist Party.
China’s bid to exterminate illegal gambling was, by the authorities’ own account, a smashing success in 2012, but the authorities added one final feather to their cap before year’s end. Earlier this month, Xinhua reported that Chinese police, working in tandem with their counterparts in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, took down an international online gambling operation with turnover of RMB 11b (US $1.76b). The investigation began back in Oct. 2010, after police received a tip about online baccarat activities taking place at a hotel in Jingzhou, a city of some 6m people in Hubei province. The gambling site was traced back to servers in Cambodia, and subsequent investigation revealed the involvement of over 500 individuals, including 120 agents on the ground in China. In October of this year, police arrested 27 individuals, all of them Chinese, including three main figures who were extradited from Vietnam on Oct. 22. Police also confiscated RMB 27m ($4.3m).
On Monday, 25 individuals accused of association with a different online gambling operation were sentenced in Shanghai’s Baoshan District People’s Court. Shanghai Daily quoted prosecutors accusing the defendants of having “acquired the agent management rights of a famous [but unidentified] football gambling website abroad.” The individuals were arrested in February after an 18-month investigation, during which time prosecutors claimed the site handled RMB 400m ($64.2m) in wagers. The defendants were given prison stints ranging from six months to five years and fines ranging from RMB 10k-100k ($1.6k-$16k).
Finally, police in Singapore took down a far less sophisticated illegal scheme when they apprehended a Vietnamese businessman attempting to smuggle $836k into the city-state. The Straits Times reported that Tran Ngoc Khoi was clearing customs at the Singapore airport when checkpoint officers attempted to scan his luggage. Instead of handing over his carry-on, Tran ducked into a nearby toilet. Security staff eventually dragged him out, upon which $436k was found in Tran’s bag and a further $400k hidden in his underwear. (We like to think this wad of cash was wrapped in tinfoil, like the cucumber Spinal Tap’s appropriately named bassist Derek Smalls concealed in his tighty-whities.) Singapore has strict laws that require anyone bringing more than $30k into the country to fill out the proper paperwork.
In court, Tran’s attorney claimed his client was a regular visitor to Singapore’s integrated resort casinos, and his fat stacks were intended to help three friends pay off gambling debts incurred at Marina Bay Sands. When asked why Tran had stuffed half the money down his pants, the attorney claimed Tran feared being robbed at the Vietnamese airport, which doesn’t explain why he left the other sum in his luggage, until you realize that this excuse sounds a lot better than ‘because I have an incredibly small willie.’ The authorities ultimately took pity on Tran, returning the cash and fining him $10k – one-fifth the maximum penalty – and sparing him any jail time. However, we suspect Tran will be subjected to some pretty aggressive patdowns on his future visits.