81 arrested in Hong Kong as triad-led gambling shops busted

Brown gavel and handcuffs
Brown gavel and handcuffs

The Asian mafia network is not enjoying 2021 so far. A greater focus on illegal gambling operations with ties to triads has been put in motion throughout the region and has already found several big targets. There is likely more to come, as well, as investigations continue. Those investigations just got some additional data sources after police in Hong Kong busted 14 gambling dens reportedly linked to triads, arresting 81 people in the process.

The arrests occurred in Wan Chai and Hong Kong’s Eastern District, according to The South China Morning Post. There were 51 men and 30 women nabbed during the exercises, with all those taken into custody between 21 and 77 years old. The illegal gambling shops were most likely run by the same people, as the media outlet reports that the “mastermind and core members of the group” were arrested. 

It isn’t clear how the locations were uncovered, other than the fact that some police had infiltrated some of the locations, but news reports indicate the raids took place on Wednesday of last week and this past Sunday. There were over 100 police officers involved in the crackdown, which led to charges of “managing a gambling establishment, money laundering, drug trafficking and possession of “offensive weapons.” To sweeten the pot a little, 62 of those arrested were also charged with violating anti-COVID-19 laws that prohibit gatherings of more than two people. 

The patrons were reportedly lured by the offer of cheap illegal drugs and were easy targets after local arcade gaming centers had been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The head of the Hong Kong Island regional anti-triad squad, Chief Inspector Tse Tsz-kwan, explained in a press conference, “The gang also provided free low-quality crystal meth and drug paraphernalia to their customers on the premises. They also helped their clients buy high-quality meth and cannabis.”

31 arcade games, many of which had been rigged to be able to cheat patrons out of more money, were seized during the raids. Along with that, police confiscated around $5,300 and a little less than that in illegal drugs. More importantly, they also got ahold of the operation’s account books, which might prove to be substantially revealing. Tse indicated that investigators will now begin sifting through all the data to follow the money trails and to identify the names behind the bank accounts that collected and laundered the operation’s proceeds.

Last November, Hong Kong police busted an online gambling ring, which also relied on bank accounts created to launder money. It isn’t clear if there is any connection between that operation and the new raids, but it’s a plausible conclusion, given the extent of the triads’ reach across Asia and the rest of the world.