Five days of police busts
Hong Kong police have arrested 81 people during a five-day operation in which they raided 14 gambling dens controlled by organized crime groups, known as triads.
offenses included possessing an offensive weapon, drug trafficking, and money laundering
More than 100 police officers cracked down on the illegal gambling dens last week. The operation took place between Wednesday and Sunday in Wan Chai and Eastern District on Hong Kong Island. In addition to managing a gambling establishment, offenses included possessing an offensive weapon, drug trafficking, money laundering and admitting to being a triad member.
In a Monday announcement, Chief Inspector Tse Tsz-kwan from the Regional Anti Triad Unit said authorities seized HK$41,000 (US$5,288) during the gambling den busts. Police found an additional HK$40,000 (US$5,160) worth of drugs, including marijuana and crystal methamphetamine.
Arcade games and free meth
According to Tse Tsz-kwan, organized crime groups took advantage of the closure of arcade centers as a result of pandemic restrictions. They opened small-scale gambling venues in residential or commercial buildings. The triad-linked gambling dens offered betting on arcade machines, including fishing and shooting games. Police seized 31 such machines.
In order to draw potential customers into the venues, gambling ring members offered free illegal drugs. This included low-quality crystal meth in addition to drug paraphernalia. The gang also helped gambling customers purchase high-quality meth and marijuana.
The ages of the suspects – including 51 men and 30 women – ranged between 21 and 77. Police said the offenders mainly consisted of ethnic minorities or Chinese citizens violating their Hong Kong travel conditions. This allowed them to avoid detection or arrest, with the dens reportedly in operation for at least six months before the raids.
China’s gambling crackdown
Hong Kong authorities are not alone in their attempts to crack down on illegal gambling. The Chinese government has stepped up efforts to combat cross-border gambling ahead of the Chinese New Year later this week.
new criminal penalties for anyone organizing overseas gambling
In a press briefing last Friday, China’s Ministry of Public Security outlined measures it would take to enforce a new amendment to the country’s criminal law. From March 1, the amendment will introduce new criminal penalties for anyone organizing overseas gambling trips for Chinese residents.
As part of this briefing, the ministry pledged to crack down on cross-border gambling during the New Year holiday. It said it would work with immigration authorities to do so, while also “strengthening law enforcement cooperation with certain countries.”
Liao Jinrong, the director of the Ministry’s Bureau of International Cooperation, said the crackdown will focus partly on junket operators as per the country’s new criminal law. However, the ministry promised leniency for any offenders who turned themselves in to the authorities before the end of April.