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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Court punishes 40 for their roles in illegal Internet gambling den

Court punishes 40 for their roles in illegal Internet gambling den

But staff members say they had no idea the Internet gaming for which they were hired was part of an international gambling operation.

THE Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday sentenced the Taiwanese manager of an online gambling company to four years in prison and fined him 18 million riels (US$4,333), while 39 of his staff members were given five years' probation and fines of 5 million riels, according to Judge Chan Sinath.

Keo Chhay, the lawyer for one of the convicted staff members of the Sky Internet Co, told the Post that the court's decision was a "very serious injustice", and that the 39 staff members were the real losers in the online gambling racket allegedly run by Ly Hyfan, Sky Internet's local manager.

"I am desperately dissatisfied with the court's conviction of the 39 staff members, who were not aware at all of the illegal gambling and thought they were employed properly by the Sky Internet Company," he said.

According to police, Sky Internet paid Cambodians a regular salary to play online card games against paying Taiwanese customers. The Cambodian staff were not gambling themselves, they say, but were complicit in an illegal gambling operation.

Keo Chhay said the staff should have been convicted under Article 4 of the gambling law, under which gamblers are fined between 10,000 and 50,000 riels and can be imprisoned for no longer than one month.

The staff, however, was convicted under Article 5, which bans people from opening, owning or managing gambling dens, and comes with a much stiffer penalty, which is how each staff member ended up with fines of 5 million riels.

We were just told ... that the games were for comforting players in Taiwan.

Police officials said they raided Sky Internet, located in Tuol Kork district, on Thursday, arresting 51 people and confiscating 48 computers.
Pen Naridth, 21, a student at Asia Euro University who was convicted for participating in the scheme, told the Post that nine of the 51 people had paid bribes of between $500 and $1,000 to avoid prosecution.

He said none of the staff knew they were working for an illegal gambling operation, adding that he received a regular monthly salary of between $70 and $100 and did not gamble himself.

"We [the staff] were not aware that our game-playing on the Internet was actually betting," he said. "We were just told by our Taiwanese boss that the games were for comforting players in Taiwan."

Ly Hyfan, the alleged Taiwanese mastermind, said that he had no idea his operation was illegal under Cambodian law and that he had only been hired on a temporary basis.

"I am not actually the manager. I was just hired by a boss in Taiwan to train staff for 10 days during my stay in Cambodia," he said.

But a municipal police officer speaking on condition of anonymity dismissed Ly Hyfan's claims as part of a ploy to avoid criminal penalties.

"They pretend to be unaware that the game involves betting," he said. "[But] if Taiwanese players had no paid accounts, then they couldn't play with staffers. There is a transferring of money into the winner's account."

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