11 face charges in $431 mln football betting ring

By Duc Dung   August 28, 2020 | 05:00 pm PT
11 face charges in $431 mln football betting ring
Police escorts members of a $431 million football gambling ring in Ha Tinh Province in central Vietnam, August 2020. Photo courtesy of Ha Tinh Police.
Eleven people involved in a football betting ring worth $431 million are under criminal investigation, police in central Ha Tinh Province said Friday.

The police said Tran Cong Khanh, 39, residing in Ho Chi Minh City, was the mastermind behind the ring. Nguyen Huy Hoang, 23, of Cam Xuyen District in Ha Tinh, along with nine others in HCMC, Dong Nai, Thua Thien - Hue and Ninh Binh made up the rest of its members.

They are facing charges of "illegal gambling" and "organizing gambling." Gambling illegally is punished by up to seven years imprisonment in Vietnam, while organizers can receive up to 10 years.

According to the investigation report, the ring commenced operation in 2017, led by Khanh under the guise of a legal business. Khanh expanded and opened multiple branches run by Hoang and his affiliates, overseeing online gambling and football betting.

After months of close monitoring, Ha Tinh police cooperated with the crime division at the Ministry of Public Security, alongside colleagues in HCMC, the southern Dong Nai Province, central Thua Thien - Hue Province and northern Ninh Binh Province to raid dozens of these branches and captured 11 suspects early this month.

Authorities said this line has nearly 1,000 accounts. The total value of transactions during its three year operation came to about VND10 trillion ($431.39 million). In July alone, its total betting pool hit VND1 trillion.

According to police, gamblers did not use their real names but mainly symbols or aliases and junk sim cards to make transactions.

While the government has legalized sports betting, and allowed people aged over 21 with a monthly income of at least VND10 million ($445) to gamble at designated casinos on a pilot basis, online betting remains illegal.

Vietnamese spend at least $800 million a year gambling overseas, mainly in Macau, Singapore, and Hong Kong, according to official reports.

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