Vietnam’s bust of a major illegal online sports betting operation has ensnared two top tech businessmen as well as the nation’s former top cybercrime police chief.
On Sunday, Vietnam authorities announced the takedown of a major online gambling operation based in the northern province of Phu Tho. Police raids resulted in the seizure of around VND1t (US$44m) in cash and other assets from the organizers, who reportedly had as many as 8m clients in Vietnam and abroad.
Among the 38 individuals arrested is Major General Nguyen Thanh Hoa, the former head of the Ministry of Public Security’s ‘C50’ cybercrime division. Hoa (pictured), who was stripped of his ceremonial ‘People’s Police’ title on Sunday, had been suspended from duty late last year over suspicions of involvement in illegal gambling activity.
Police say Hoa uncovered the illegal gambling operation through the course of his duties, but instead of taking it down, chose to provide it with protection services. Other C50 officers are reportedly under suspicion of involvement in the illegal gambling operation.
On Monday, VNExpress reported that two top technology businessmen – Phan Sao Nam, founder of multimedia firm VTC, and Nguyen Van Duong, chairman of online security firm CNC – had also been arrested after being fingered as the gambling operation’s ringleaders.
CNC has ties to the State Bank of Vietnam, inking a 10-year deal last year to provide electronic payment gateway services and electronic wallet services. The online betting ring reportedly used cards issued by CNC to facilitate betting payments. Police have yet to say whether the ring used its own websites or directed customers to sites based outside the country.
The Communist Party secretariat issued a statement saying this weekend’s bust was “a particularly large scale case, using high technology, especially serious, complex and sensitive, involving many people, many sectors and provinces.”
The secretariat added that the individuals at the heart of the operation stood accused of “using the internet to appropriate property, organize gambling, gamble, illegally trade receipts and launder money.” If convicted, illegal gambling organizers face prison sentences of up to 10 years.
The bust came just days after police in central Thua Thien-Hue province announced their own online gambling bust, the largest in the province’s history, arresting six individuals and seizing VND1.8b in cash. It’s unclear if the two operations are connected in any way.
Online gambling is illegal in Vietnam, and while the government is currently launching a five-year trial of allowing limited forms of betting on international football matches, online betting isn’t part of this experiment. As a result, the authorities should expect more of these busts in future.