BANGKOK (Reuters) – More than 4,000 people have been arrested worldwide and more than $13 million seized across Asia in operations targeting illegal gambling during the Euro 2016 football tournament, Interpol said on Monday.
The global police cooperation agency, which called the operation the “most significant in recent years”, said more than 4,000 raids were carried out across China, France, Greece, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam during Operation SOGA VI (short for soccer gambling) on dens estimated to have handled $649 million worth of bets.
“The number of seizures is the highest and most significant amongst similar operations in recent years. The SOGA operations are important for tackling not just illegal gambling, but also the organised networks behind this and other types of crime,” said Chief Superintendent Chan Lok-wing, Head of Hong Kong’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau.
A second operation targeted transnational networks behind illegal websites and call-center type operations, Interpol said in a statement from Bangkok.
Reuters was not able to immediately reach Thailand’s Interpol director for comment.
The arrests come amid a record spike in illegal online gambling in China with millions of yuan placed in bets on Euro 2016, a side-effect of a surge in Chinese interest in global soccer.
Portugal were crowned the Euro 2016 champions on July 10, defeating host nation France 1-0 to win their first major championship.
(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Nick Macfie)