Police yesterday arrested more than 70 Chinese, Indonesians, Malaysians and Cambodians suspected of involvement in an illegal online football gambling network in Phnom Penh, senior officials said.
Mom Sitha, director of the foreign police office, linked the crackdown, which took place in the capital’s Chamkarmon district, to last week’s arrest and deportation of 114 Indonesian nationals suspected of involvement in a football-betting ring.
Sitha said authorities’ continued investigation of the deported Indonesians’ networks had led to yesterday’s arrest.
“These networks are still operating online gambling, which is illegal in Cambodia,” Mom Sitha said. “We have not decided on the fate of these people, as we are still investigating to uncover their networks.
Phnom Penh deputy police commissioner Hy Prou, who led the raids, and Phnom Penh deputy prosecutor Meas Chan Piseth confirmed that authorities have not yet decided whether the foreign nationals will be charged in Cambodia or face deportation.
“I don’t know yet the final decision on these people,” Hy Prou said.
Among the 71 arrested were 15 Chinese, five Malaysians and 10 Indonesians. The remaining 36 are Cambodian citizens.
National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith told the Post that police confiscated 173 computers that had been used for organising online football betting following their raids in Chamkarmon district’s Tonle Bassac and Boeung Keng Kang III communes.
“We are questioning the arrested persons and will make a report so that the Minister of Interior can make a decision on these people,” Chantharith said. “I don’t know whether we will deport them or not until that decision is made.”
Ouch Sokhon, police chief of Chamkarmon district, confirmed that municipal police had raided groups suspected of involvement in online gambling but declined to elaborate further, saying that his forces maintained guard outside the raid locations while the Phnom Penh police conducted the raids.
Officials from the Chinese, Malaysian and Indonesian embassies in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.
Yesterday’s arrest follows a year of cross-border crime busts in Cambodia and the broader region.
The Jakarta Post reported last Friday that authorities involved in investigating the Indonesians deported from Cambodia last week are still searching for the boss of the suspected gambling ring, who is reportedly in Hong Kong.
On Tuesday, Taiwanese and Philippine authorities in Manila arrested 86 Taiwanese and 291 Chinese on suspected involvement in a phone fraud syndicate, following a similar arrest in July, as Taiwan pushes for Southeast Asia’s cooperation in combating international crime, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation’s website.
Cambodia joined Taiwan’s efforts last September when authorities arrested 60 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals for alleged involvement in an extortion ring during a Taiwan-initiated sweep that spanned Southeast Asia.
Since then, hundreds of Chinese, Taiwanese and Indonesian nationals who have chosen Cambodia as a base for extortion schemes and online betting rings have been arrested and sent back to face prosecution in their home countries.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not know why so many foreign nationals have chosen to base their illegal operations in Cambodia, but added: “Our arresting them is a message: We will not be a haven for illegal activity.”