Vietnam busts online gambling ring ‘run by officials’

Vietnam busts online gambling ring ‘run by officials’

HANOI: Vietnamese police have broken up an online gambling ring worth almost $26 million and arrested 10 people along with confiscating guns and cash, officials said Tuesday, the latest big bust in a country where illicit betting flourishes despite tough laws.

The ringleaders -- allegedly the very officials responsible for policing online gambling -- ran several websites for sports betting and other forms of gambling which had attracted hundreds of online punters since July, according to a local police source and state media.

The network spanned several provinces in central and southern Vietnam and was headed by a 37-year-old identified as Huynh Quoc Viet.

"We arrested seven people and three others turned themselves in. The investigation is still ongoing to see if anyone else is involved," the police source told AFP Tuesday from the central province of Quang Nam.

Several houses were raided across multiple cities and police confiscated two rifles, $20,000 in cash and several cars and mobile phones, according to the Quang Nam provincial police's official website.

The suspects also illegally offered high-interest loans and could be hired to collect debts using force, according to state media.

Most gambling is illegal in Vietnam, a one-party state where running online betting rings carries a maximum jail term of 10 years and only foreigners are legally allowed to bet at local casinos.

But the communist government said last year it would ease restrictions on sports betting and allow some Vietnamese to gamble in casinos on a pilot basis, though the new rules have yet to come into effect.

Major firms, both foreign and local, are eager to break into the potentially lucrative market in a country of 93 million where underground betting is widespread -- even among officials.

Police are now investigating a massive illegal betting ring worth $422 million in the country's biggest-ever gambling bust involving more than 100 people, including current and former officials.

The online betting ring was allegedly run by the very officials tasked with policing online gambling at the Ministry of Public Security.

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