Amlo, banks team up in anti-gambling effort

Amlo, banks team up in anti-gambling effort

Watch put out for suspicious activities

The Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) is working with banks to closely monitor suspicious transactions in a move to impound assets of all people involved in online football gambling during the World Cup.

The measure aims to bolster a police crackdown on gambling after officers admitted they have limited power to act against illegal websites from abroad.

Up to 36 banks and financial institutions have teamed up with Amlo to form a countrywide operation to keep online irregularities in check, acting Amlo secretary-general Romsit Wiriyasan said Monday.

Phone network service providers are also on board to beef up the crackdown, he said.

Amlo and the Royal Thai Police Office will spearhead a cyber patrol, looking out for suspected wrongdoings across the internet.

"Information on suspicious bank accounts will be sent to Amlo for immediate investigation," Pol Maj Gen Romsit said.

Bank account holders, gamblers and website owners will be treated as criminal suspects who will face charges based on a police list of 26 offences, he said.

According to the Metropolitan Police Bureau, gamblers' names and bank accounts can be retrieved from computer systems which will lead to a hunt for the suspects.

Since the World Cup kicked off last Thursday, police have arrested up to 3,000 suspects, deputy national police chief Chaloemkiat Siworakhan said Monday.

Investigators found about 250 of them in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces where many gambling websites are based.

So far the officers have found that "more than 100,000 [illegal] websites are run by Thais and 100 of them are hosted in Thailand", Pol Gen Chaloemkiat said.

Most websites are run by people who ran gambling dens before, he said. They are taking advantage of the current World Cup fever to offer online betting services.

Pol Gen Chaloemkiat admitted the number of gamblers betting on this year's World Cup is higher than four year ago. The surge is mainly the result of easier access to illegal websites via smart phones, he said.

Police are currently gathering evidence to seek court orders to close these websites, Pol Gen Chaloemkiat said.

But such action is impossible if these websites are registered abroad.

Cambodia is one such country where both Thai and foreigners often run online football betting as gambling is not illegal there.

Thai authorities cannot ask their Cambodian counterparts to shut down these online gambling websites, deputy city police chief Pol Maj Gen Phanurat Lakboon said.

According to investigators, gambler hosts will hire Thais as their nominees to open bank accounts.

They then will establish headquarters fully equipped with gambling paraphernalia in Thailand, mainly in Bangkok and other big cities.

Because of this, Pol Maj Gen Phanurat said, only nominees and Thai employees face legal actions if their offices are raided.

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