South Korean police have broken up an online sports betting ring that reportedly handled $3b in wagers in the past three years.
On Wednesday, Korea JoongAng Daily reported that the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency had arrested 16 managers of the betting operation along with 124 subordinates. The alleged ringleader and some 14 other suspects remain at large.
The ring reportedly operated eight different betting websites that handled wagers totaling KRW 3.4t (US $3b) between January 2013 and July 2016 from a clientele of around 200k bettors. The sites accepted wagers up to KRW 1m ($880), while the most popular betting sports were football, baseball and basketball.
The ring netted around KRW 140b ($123m) in profits, only KRW 1.3b of which was confiscated by police. Around KRW 80b was reportedly taken by the ringleader when he fled.
Police said the operation started with a single website run by two brothers. The pair later enlisted the help of their brother-in-law, who set up the other seven sites and became ‘president’ of the group.
The trio filled their staffing needs by placing job advertisements that promised monthly salaries of KRW 2m that would rise by KRW 200k every three months. The jobs were described as overseas positions with food and housing provided.
The staffers were trained in the Seoul area before being shipped to Manila. Some of the arrested staff told police that it was only after they’d arrived in the Philippines that they learned they would be working for an illegal operation but the ringleaders had confiscated their passports, leaving them with little option but to stay and work.
The Incheon police raided the group’s office in collaboration with Philippine immigration authorities. The rank-and-file staff were booked without detention, although deportation is likely imminent for anyone who doesn’t return home of their own accord.
The Philippines is a popular base of operations for Korean-facing illegal betting sites, with the most recent bust coming this July. But it pales in comparison to Thailand, which in recent years has been overrun by Korean-facing operators who claim Thai sentences for illegal gambling are far more lenient than they’d get at home.
News of the Manila operation’s closure came the same day that Philippine authorities announced their disruption of a China-facing illegal online betting ring that claimed to be acting merely as a business process outsourcing (BPO) center for legit online gambling operations.