Published: October 22, 2023

Update on Anti-illegal Betting & Related Financial Crime cases being brought against criminals in Asia and Europe

ARF Council on Anti-Illegal Betting and Related Financial Crime News Summary
18 October 2023

Dear all,
The impact of illegal betting in Europe is shown from two major recent cases.
In Belgium, Armenian Grigor Sargsyan was recently convicted and imprisoned for his involvement in illegal betting that facilitated the corrupting more than 180 players and paying them to throw hundreds of matches.
In Spain, INTERPOL have assisted the Spanish National Police, the Spanish Tax Agency, and Europol to dismantle an organized crime group suspected of fixing sporting events as well as using technology to place bets ahead of bookmakers. The corruption involved betting on Asian and South American football leagues, UEFA Nations League, Bundesliga, Qatar 2022 World Cup matches and ATP and ITF tennis tournaments.
These cases are great results for European efforts to combat illegal betting and related corruption in sports, both of which are closely tied to transnational organised crime groups.

Best wishes,
Martin Purbrick
Chairperson, Asian Racing Federation Council on Anti-illegal Betting & Related Financial Crime

           Asia Pacific/ Australasia


Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 13 September 2023

Suspected members of a massive money laundering syndicate busted in Singapore last month purchased prestige properties in London in 2021 worth almost $60 million, company and land records reviewed by OCCRP and Radio Free Asia reveal.
The investments highlight the global reach of a syndicate that Singapore police say laundered the proceeds of illicit “scams and online gambling.”

More than 400 officers swept in on multiple locations in the Southeast Asian city state in mid-August, arresting 10 people. Prosecutors said in a September 5 court hearing that they had seized at least $SG1.8 billion ($1.32 billion) in cash, cryptocurrencies, and assets including expensive handbags and jewelry.

Police said at the time of the arrests that they had confiscated 50 vehicles and 94 properties in Singapore, which were together worth almost $600 million. Reporters have now discovered three London properties owned by two of the suspects that were purchased in December 2021 for a combined total of $56 million.

The biggest transaction involved the simultaneous purchase of two adjoining properties in Oxford Circus, the city’s top shopping district. They were acquired jointly by a Jersey-based entity called New Yihao Limited that listed Su Haijin as its only “individual beneficial owner,” according to a registered overseas entity document published by the U.K. business registry.

Illegal online gambling and scam operations –– like those allegedly run by the suspects arrested in Singapore –– have expanded rapidly across Southeast Asia in recent years. The operations are often run out of casinos, the number of which ballooned to at least 350 throughout the region by 2022, according to an OCCRP tally based on regulator reports and document from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Many operate illegally in poorly-regulated special economic zones and target bettors in mainland China, where gambling is banned.


Taipei Times, 16 September 2023

Police have made two arrests related to an election betting operation allegedly headed by a Chinese operator with the intention of influencing Taiwan’s elections, the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) said on Thursday.

The two male suspects surnamed Lee (李), 22, and Liu (劉), 30, were arrested in New Taipei City and Hsinchu County respectively, and detained for questioning earlier this month, officials from the CIB office in Taichung said in a news release.

Evidence points to Liu, who has prior criminal convictions, as the leader of the betting pool, acting as the representative for the mastermind based in China, the CIB said, adding that the person in China instructed Lee and other ring members to collect money, handle transactions and keep accounts.

Police investigators said they last month came upon an advertisement of “Betting on 2024 Presidential Election with given odds and latest poll figures,” on a Facebook page registered to a foreign IP address, the bureau said.

By tracing the money, prosecutors have found that illegal election betting in Taiwan is promoted mainly on social media, with significant financing by companies in southeast Asian countries.
Europe/ Middle East/ Africa

Europe wide

Armenian match fixer who masterminded the biggest illegal betting ring in tennis and 'made $9m in just two years' before being jailed says he is 'proud' of corrupting more than 180 players and paying them to throw matches
Daily Mail, 7 September 2023

An Armenian match fixer nicknamed the Maestro, who masterminded the biggest illegal betting ring in tennis, has said he is 'proud' of corrupting more than 180 players and paying them to throw hundreds of matches.

Over several years, Grigor Sargsyan, an Armenian immigrant in Belgium with no tennis background turned savings of $350 into millions. He supposedly considered himself the sport's 'Robin Hood' after building a web of players from around the world - believed to include some based in the United States - and convincing them to fix matches.

He was recently jailed for five years in Belgium after a SWAT team arrested him at his parent's house following an exhaustive investigation.

The tennis authorities issued a raft of lifetime bans and suspensions after Sargsyan's network was uncovered. It was described as 'one of the largest match-fixing files ever to surface in the world' but just ‘the tip of the iceberg.'

'(The) biggest in size, biggest in money, and biggest in number of matches fixed and number of players involved,' prosecutors said. 'More than 181 tennis players are involved; more than 375 matches are involved.'


INTERPOL, 15 September 2023

The Spanish National Police, in cooperation with the Spanish Tax Agency, Europol and INTERPOL, have dismantled an organized crime group suspected of fixing sporting events as well as using technology to place bets ahead of bookmakers.

So far, 23 suspects have been arrested, including one of the group’s leaders who was apprehended on the basis of an INTERPOL Red Notice for persons wanted internationally.

The operation began in 2020 when Spanish officers detected a series of suspicious online sports bets placed on international table tennis events. After analysing available data, investigators identified a criminal network of Romanian and Bulgarian origin.

Members of this crime ring fixed matches outside of Spain by corrupting athletes. Once the outcomes were agreed, crime group members based in Spain would then place online bets on a massive scale.

Through their investigations, officers uncovered a criminal process whereby the group would access match information before bookmakers, allowing them to place bets with certainty and ultimately, cash in.  Through advanced technology, they gained access to live video signals from around the world, straight from stadiums, pitches and arenas. Intercepting these signals gave them a clear advantage on bookmakers, who were dependent on slower satellite feeds and relays for the same events.

The process was repeated across Asian and South American football leagues, UEFA Nations League, Bundesliga, Qatar 2022 World Cup matches and ATP and ITF tennis tournaments.

Despite collecting significant payouts, the group avoided detection by using a multitude of identities and accounts.
Among those arrested was a trader from a major bookmaker who, in collusion with the criminal group, would validate online bets placed by the criminal network


Short of cash, Brazil's government may end its gambling prohibition
The Economist, 14 September 2023

On July 24th the current president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, issued a provisional decree to regulate sports-betting websites, which until now have operated in a legal grey area. This is the first step, perhaps, in a process that will allow all sorts of gambling.

Congress has until November to amend and vote on Lula’s decree. The government wants to charge an 18% levy on the revenue of sports-betting websites and a 30m-real ($6m) fee for a five-year licence to operate one. It would create a regulator, the National Secretariat for Games and Betting. Opposition in Congress comes mainly from evangelical Christian lawmakers. There are too few to block the measure.

Currently, Brazil allows “games of skill”, like poker and wagering on horse-racing. They constitute a big business, though most of the companies engaged in it operate from offshore. Legal betting companies’ turnover is expected to be 12bn reais this year, 70% higher than in 2020, according to bnlData, a Brazilian group that provides information about the industry. The country is thought to be the world’s eighth-biggest market for online gambling. Betting websites sponsor 19 of the 20 teams in the top domestic football division. Lula’s decree closes a loophole that lets offshore companies operate in Brazil without regulation or paying tax.

If wider liberalisation happens despite such qualms, Brazil would join a global trend. Countries such as America, Japan and Thailand are in the process of liberalising gambling. Casino groups are queuing up to invest. Brazil, if it opens up, could “quickly become one of the world’s largest” gambling markets, says a spokesman for Playtech, a gambling-software company.

Advocates contend that, unlike gambling itself, liberalisation is a win-win proposition. It would curb criminality by introducing regulation and enrich the government. Some of the extra revenue could be spent on treating addiction. “By legalising gambling the state has more power to mitigate the negative effects,” says Ricardo de Paula Feijó, a legal consultant. That sort of argument is gaining adherents.
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The Asian Racing Federation Council on Anti-Illegal Betting and Related Financial Crime

The Asian Racing Federation Council on Anti-Illegal Betting and Related Financial Crime (ARF Council) was established in 2017 as a think tank aimed at combatting illegal betting and related financial crime. The ARF Council now comprises 24 members from organisations engaged in horse racing and sports integrity, law enforcement, the United Nations, and academia.

The ARF Council’s purpose is to research and share the scale and negative impacts of illegal betting, particularly as it relates to horse racing and sports integrity, and to foster international collaboration among stakeholders, such as horse racing operators and authorities, gambling regulators, law enforcement agencies, and government policy makers to raise awareness of the threat and to combat the negative impact of illegal betting and other financial crimes to horse racing, other sports, and to society.
Members of the Asian Racing Federation Council on Anti-Illegal Betting & Related Financial Crime
Martin Purbrick (Chairperson)
Douglas Robinson (Deputy Chairperson), The Hong Kong Jockey Club
James Porteous (Research Head), The Hong Kong Jockey Club
Jack Anderson Racing Victoria
Graham Ashton Sports Integrity, Safety and Security Risk Consultant
Tom Chignell The Hong Kong Jockey Club
Steve Cornelius University of Pretoria
Brant Dunshea British Horseracing Authority
Luca Esposito United Lotteries for Integrity in Sport
Brent Fisher Racing Victoria
Sally Gainsbury The University of Sydney
Neil Grimstone New Zealand Racing Integrity Unit
Cliodhna Guy The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board
Kim Kelly International Harmonisation of Racing Rules Committee, International Federation of Horseracing Authorities
John Langdale Macquarie University
Claudio Marinelli INTERPOL Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption Centre
Aahna Mehrotra TMT Law Practice, AM Sports Law & Management Co.
James Ogilvy Asian Racing Federation
Ronan O’Laoire United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Catherine Ordway University of Canberra
Michael Phelan Sports Integrity and Policing Consultant
Tim Robinson The Hong Kong Jockey Club
Tak Sung Hyun Korean Racing Authority
Pim Verschuuren University of Rennes, France

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