You bet, we'll nab, cops tell World Cup bookies, punters

There has been a proliferation of gambling websites which are trying to take advantage of the World Cup fever. — Reuters pic
There has been a proliferation of gambling websites which are trying to take advantage of the World Cup fever. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Police have yet again lamented about inadequate laws to curb illegal betting as punters are expected to place high bets during the World Cup which kicked off in Brazil early this morning.

Police efforts could also be further stifled with the advancement of technology as bets can be placed and managed remotely through handheld devices or smartphones, making it even difficult for police to trace the movements of those involved.

However, police remain confident of making arrests despite many expecting the value of bets placed to supercede the previous edition in South Africa.

“The net is in place ... now we’re waiting for the fish to be caught,” said federal police anti-vice, gambling and secret societies (D7) department chief deputy director SAC Roslee Chik, referring to their new plan to arrest punters.

“We areare ready with our equipment for this war.”

Roslee, however, remained tight-lipped over the new strategy to nab those involved in the menace. He also pointed out operators of gambling centres now provided female guest relation officers to gamblers.

“The operators are testing this new method during the World Cup to see if they can attract more gamblers.”

Police had been waging war against such activities, but many said they had been fighting a losing battle due to “inadequate laws”, something which even Roslee had indirectly admitted.

“The Attorney-General’s office should think of new ways ... either making amendments or creating new additions in existing law to ease the prosecutions involving gambling machines and foreign-based websites.”

“It will not be easy as people are now able to place and manage their bets remotely. But we have learnt from our past experiences and have come up with new ways to track and bust these people.”

Police conducted 217 raids nationwide during the 2010 South Africa World Cup and arrested 143 people. The syndicates they busted had received bets amounting to RM438 million. Roslee expected a higher betting value this time around.

He said police were unable to obtain cooperation from their counterparts abroad when wanting to obtain statements needed for evidence to enable prosecution. Gambling machines, when stored, were exposed to harsh conditions (rain and shine) and turned faulty when produced in court.

Among the other challenges police face include:

● Leakage of information by personnel resulting in unsuccessful raids;

● Servers and website based abroad, mostly in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines, where sports betting is legal;

● Gambling centres masquerading as family entertainment outlets; and

● Cheap modified gambling computers available for as low as RM400 each.

Police initiated an operation, nicknamed “Ops Soga”, three weeks ago and even identified those who were behind the syndicates. 

This was announced by Bukit Aman CID director Datuk Hadi Ho Abdullah in Beruas on Wednesday.

Days prior the kick-off, the Home Ministry said it would cooperate with Interpol and Fifa to monitor illegal gambling activities throughout the month.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said this had to be done as such activities involved bookies at the international level.

He said police, through experts on illegal gambling, and with the cooperation from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, private security and telecommunication companies, had mobilised a forensics unit.

Global Financial Integrity placed Malaysia among the top 10 developing countries with the highest amount of illicit financial flows from 2002 to 2011. Illegal betting with money channeled abroad were said to be one of the factors that had contributed to the worrying figures.

If all else fails, police would refer to the Prevention of Crime Act. According to the Prevention of Crime Board, 134 individuals have been arrested under the Act from April 2 to June 11 for various offences including online gambling. 

“Even if you are linked to any element of online betting and gambling, we will get you,” Ahmad Zahid said.

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