Vietnamese authorities have filed charges against 59 individuals over their involvement with online sports betting site M88.com. The illegal betting ring was broken up last January following a three-year investigation into the local connections of the Philippines-based website. Police said the ring involved some 12k locally registered bank accounts the site used to transfer money to and from local bettors via agents on the ground. The ring is believed to have processed wagers worth hundreds of millions of US dollars before being shut down.
Among those facing organized gambling charges are Nguyen Le Sang, a former deputy director of PR and marketing at the Vietnam International Bank. Thanh Nien News reported that Sang was paid US $100k to open eight bank accounts through which more than VND 585b (US $27.6m) in betting funds was transmitted. Cu Thi Thanh Hai, a former deputy director with telecom firm News Plus, was paid $35k for opening six accounts through which VND 64b was wagered. Two other agents are accused of opening accounts handling over VND 500b apiece, for which they received unknown remuneration.
Nugyen vo Hoai Tram, also a director at News Plus and the ring’s alleged mastermind, remains at large. Police say Tram began his relationship as M88’s advertising agent in 2010. The timing of the charges was no doubt intended to remind other would-be sports betting entrepreneurs that handling wagers on this month’s FIFA World Cup is not without its potential downside.
Not content to focus on football, Vietnamese authorities are also taking action against illegal lotteries. A major illegal numbers operation that handled “dozens of billions” in daily wagers (12b VND = US $564k) was broken up in Ho Chi Minh City last month. Players could win up to 80x their original wager by playing the so de numbers game, which was based on the official state lottery. Police fingered 36-year-old Nguyen Ngoc Thang as the ringleader who utilized dozens of agents across the city to collect bets and pay winnings. Police arrested 28 individuals and seized computers, phones, fax machines and over VND 2b in cash.