17 suspects arrested in South Korea for operating illegal sports gambling sites

Senior Reporter

Even the smoothest criminals tend to slip up sometimes. And something like running an unregistered, undocumented gambling site seems like a sleek idea until it catches speed and becomes challenging to keep up with when it comes to hiding it from authorities. But everything that’s in the dark eventually comes to light, and that was the painful lesson learned for a group of lawbreakers in South Korea in late June 2021.

17 suspects arrested in South Korea for operating illegal sports gambling sites
Busan Metropolitan Police Agency Building. Photo: wikidata.org

Authorities in South Korea have investigated illegally operated sports gambling sites, involving 38 people, 17 of which were arrested for running an unlawful business worth KRW900bn ($797m), according to The Korea Herald that also violated the National Sports Promotion Act.

The incident happened when authorities searched the offices of two sites and the residences of the culprits. Officials confiscated a considerable sum of money (KRW1.95bn) as well as a property worth KRW8.12bn. Three apartments and two houses that were purchased with illegal money were also taken away for good.

There aren’t that many legal forms of betting in South Korea, and only lotteries, horse racing, boat racing, and cycling are allowed. Land-based gambling isn’t allowed for residents - only travelers and visitors can enjoy the luxury. It’s quite strict, as locals are advised to stay away from gambling offshore as well. So crimes like this are quite common, especially ones involving residents offering illegal gambling to tourists.

The wide ban on gambling for residents gives incentive for individuals to run suchlike businesses for the locals as well as globetrotters who are willing to pay excellent money to get in a bet or two. Most travelers aren’t even aware that they are participating in illegal activities due to failure to check the facilities for credentials.

In this case, however, the suspects were running sports betting sites and processing deposits/withdrawals illegally. The two illegal sports gambling businesses were reported to be worth 900 billion won ($797 million) combined. This, of course, means heavy fines and jail/prison time for 17/38 suspects. One of which fled the country prior to the arrests and is currently posted up on Interpol's most-wanted list.

The man is known to have been running an illegal sports betting website in South Korea since 2016, collecting KRW900bn from over 3,000 participating players from both China and Vietnam. He was also involved in running an illegal gambling site back in 2018, which brought him over KRW100bn from almost 2,000 partakers.

It appears as if this bust was but a small puzzle piece to many more unlawful gambling operations and illegal websites. Authorities are currently conducting further investigation to get to the bottom of the ring, as this issue is very prominent in South Korea.

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