Police in Hong Kong say they have dismantled a triad-controlled gambling ring and seized the largest number of illegal betting records tied to a single operation in a decade.
According to a police source who spoke to The South China Morning Post, the handwritten documents show the triad bookies handled more than US$438 million in illegal bets on horse racing and soccer games in the first four months of 2021 alone. The ring had only been in operation for around a year, police believe.
Following an investigation that lasted several months, police said 18 people — 16 men and two women — had been arrested during raids across Kowloon and Hong Kong’s New Territories on Sunday afternoon. These included the alleged ringleader, his wife, and three other high-ranking triad figures.
Police said the operation was linked to the Wo Shing Wo triad society.
Supercars, $1 Million Cash Seized
The proceeds were laundered through accounts controlled by relatives of key members of the syndicate, Chief Inspector Hui Hong-kit of the organized crime bureau said Monday. The gang recruited customers who placed bets via phone and text message. They charged a 0.5 commission on all bets.
All transactions between the book and its customers were made in cash, Hui said. Some individual bets amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, he added.
Officers seized luxury cars during the raids, including two Maseratis, and more than HK$8.5 million (US$1 million) from the apartments of the alleged ringleader and his core associates. During the investigation, authorities froze 70 bank accounts collectively containing around US$2.5 million.
Hong Kong authorities have stepped up enforcement efforts against illegal betting since the start of the Euro 2020 soccer championships, so far arresting 168 people, according to SCMP.
Gambling in Hong Kong is strictly regulated and restricted to just a few outlets. The Hong Kong Jockey Club has a government-granted monopoly on horse races, football matches, and lotteries. Illegal bookmaking is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Wo Shing Wo and ‘The Company’
The Wo Shing Wo is the oldest of the four major triad groups operating in Hong Kong that includes the Sun Yee On, 14K, and Wo On Lok. It has interests in extortion, drug trafficking, and prostitution, as well as gambling, according to Hong Kong police.
Wo Shing Wo is part of a criminal alliance of five triad societies, collectively known as “The Company” or “Sam Gor.”
The Company is believed to control up to 70 percent of the Asia-Pacific methamphetamine market, while also running heroin, ketamine, and other drugs, worth some US$8 billion per year.