The illegal gambling ring arrest of a senior Vietnamese police general earlier this week continues to grab the headlines in local media, with the latest reports giving some idea of the size of the illegal enterprise overseen by disgraced police general Nguyen Thanh Hoa, Nguyen Van Duong, board chairman of high-tech security company CNC and Phan Sao Nam, former board chairman of major online communication firm VTC Online.
Newspaper reports claim the ring attracted 14 million players who deposited up to $420 million in the just under three years the ring was operating. Thus far 38 arrests have been made, and 83 other individuals are under investigation.
Police in the northern province of Phu Tho first discovered the gambling ring whilst investigating a fraud case last May, in which a suspect revealed that he laundered his ill-gotten gains through the ring.
The investigation quickly widened as the size of the illegal business became apparent, along with the influential people who are accused of managing it.
Two main internet gambling casino portals were used, where players could gamble virtual money and convert their winnings to real money, police found. Players could obtain virtual money by redeeming mobile top-up cards, CNC’s pre-paid cards or by paying the tech companies through bank transfer.
The portals started operating in April 2015, drawing around 14 million players and bets worth VND9.6 trillion ($419.7 million). It earned Duong and Nam profit worth VND3.2 trillion ($140 million), the police claim, observing that the ring was the largest and most successful yet encountered by Vietnamese police.
Duong and Nam were arrested last August in a police operation that seized over VND1 trillion ($43.8 million), 13 cars, 20 apartments, and froze over VND380 billion in bank accounts belonging to the suspects.
Officers have revealed that the illegal money, mostly in cash and gold, was hidden across the country and in many cases required them to use multiple trucks and obtain special permission to transport the exhibits to a government warehouse in Hanoi.
Following further investigation, police last Sunday arrested Nguyen Thanh Hoa, former director of the Ministry of Public Security’s cybercrime division for allegedly colluding with Duong and Nam.
The former police director is accused of knowing about the ring and associating with its leaders without reporting it. He is also alleged to have “borrowed” VND17 billion as well as accepted VND700 million in gifts from Duong.
Police have also questioned Lieutenant General Phan Van Vinh, former head of the General Department of Police regarding his responsibility as Hoa’s superior.