China Busts $55bn Crypto-Based Online Gambling Syndicate

July 19, 2023
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Chinese authorities have announced the partial dismantling of a 400bn yuan ($55bn) gambling syndicate trading with cryptocurrency, following raids in at least four provinces and the arrest of 130 suspects.

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Chinese authorities have announced the partial dismantling of a 400bn yuan ($55bn) gambling syndicate trading with cryptocurrency, following raids in at least four provinces and the arrest of 130 suspects.

The Shayang County Public Security Bureau in Jingmen City, Hubei Province, said on Tuesday (July 18) that the rolling investigation broke up 14 criminal gangs amid raids in Fujian, Sichuan and Henan provinces and the Guangxi autonomous region between December 2021 and April 2022.

Investigators discovered that the network was entirely reliant on cryptocurrency in processing gambling transactions, the bureau said, adding that they froze numerous accounts containing the crypto equivalent of $160m in October last year.

The reports, which claimed the case was groundbreaking because of its scope and the dominance of cryptocurrency, did not identify the specific currency or elaborate on how its value was assessed.

The case dates back to July 2021, when a reportedly desperate gambler reported to county police that he had lost more than 100,000 yuan ($14,000) on an online chess game, or roughly three times the per capita median annual income.

While the authorities last month indicted an alleged leader of the syndicate, surnamed Qiu, Chinese media reports quoted investigators as saying the core of the operation is foreign-based. The reports did not identify the location or locations.

However, given that three of the “main suspects” of the case now in custody were detained overseas and repatriated last December, it is likely that operations were or are based in Cambodia, Myanmar or Laos where online gambling and scamming operations are rife and enforcement negligible.

All three nations, along with the Philippines, have been targeted by a Chinese police campaign offering amnesty to some degree to Chinese nationals who return home and confess to working for overseas gambling operators.

Police added that the case has implicated more than 50,000 people, although they did not say if these possible suspects were syndicate agents, customers, or both.

The trial of Qiu and unnamed alleged co-conspirators is set to begin at the Shayang County People’s Court, although no dates have been set.

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