Vietnam Busts Huge Gambling Ring As Part of Corruption ClampdownMarch 21, 2018 12:54 pm
Earlier this week, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security (MoPS), headed by General Tran Dai Quang (photo), decided to clarify details about its crackdown on illegal online gambling and money laundering in the country.
The move was apparently made because of what was described as “inaccurate reports” circulating about its operation in the northern province of Phu Tho in which police seized VND1t (US$44m) in cash and assets from an illegal sports betting ring, resulting in the arrest of a number of notable people, including Nguyen Thanh Hoa, the former head of Vietnam’s High-Technology Police Department.
“This is a particularly large-scale case, using high technology, especially serious, complex and sensitive, involving many people, many sectors and provinces, involving officials within the police,” quoted the Voice of Vietnam news site.
Gambling Illegal in Vietnam
All types of gambling are illegal in Vietnam, with the exception of a state run lottery which was launched in 1999. While there are 7 licensed integrated casinos in the country offering table games and slots, up until now just foreigners have been permitted to gamble at these venues.
This has then resulted in underground gambling dens and online casinos springing up throughout Vietnam, although last year an experimental three-year pilot program was proposed to allow locals to gamble at two of the country’s casinos, namely Van Don in the north, and on Phu Quoc Island in the south. The government has also made a recent move to permit a limited amount of wagering on international soccer matches.
Police Target Rikvip Group
In its official report, the MoPS confirmed that it was targeting the Rikvip Group, which since 2015 has been running two illegal online gambling sites in Vietnam, rikvip.com and rikvip.vn. These sites offered 42 online gambling products, including a popular card game called Rikvip, with players able to purchase virtual scores via a range of different options, such as prepaid telecom cards (Viettel, Mobifone, Vinaphone), game cards (Zing, Gate, Vcoin, Megacard, GoCoin, Vcard), or their bank accounts.
Furthermore, the gambling operation facilitated a “convenient payment system” through legal gateways, such as VNPT EPAY, Ngan Luong, HOMEDIRECT, and Giai tri so, as well as the National Payment Corporation of Vietnam (NAPAS).
To give an idea of the scale of operation, from April 2015 until August 2017, the gambling ring hosted more than 42 million accounts across its sites, with each of its gamblers owning a total of three accounts on average.
Rikvip had previously been identified as the biggest illegal internet gambling ring in Vietnam, and on August 29, 2017, the Investigation Security Agency launched legal proceeding against any persons or organizations with dealing with the operation. Last week, police raids subsequently resulted in the arrest of 83 people, with most of those arrests split between those charged with organized gambling (41), and the gamblers themselves (38), with four people also arrested for illegally trading invoices, and another two for breaking money laundering laws.
Two corporate technology businessmen, however, are accused of heading the operation, namely Phan Sao Nam, who founded VTC, and Nguyen Van Duong, who is the chairman of CNC. Also charged was Major General Nguyen Thanh Hoa, the former head of the country’s cybercrime division, known as the Ministry of Public Security (C50).
In the wake of the investigation and recent developments, the MoPS has made a number of recommendations in order to tighten regulations governing the telecommunication industry and prevent online gambling rings like Rikvip from being able to use such payment channels for their illegal activities. As a MoPS statement said:
“The loose management of publishing and using telecommunications scratch cards enabled these to become the main payment methods for other services. MoPS recommends the government to add several regulations to patch the holes and overcome shortcomings in the draft Law on Network Security, which is expected to be approved in the upcoming session of the National Assembly.”
Just like China, Vietnam is in the midst of a widespread anti-corruption campaign, whose arrests so far have included people employed in the country’s energy, banking, provincial government and police sectors. Amongst the numerous officials charged are those from the state oil company PetroVietnam, including its Chairman Dinh La Thang, which lost $35 million after investing in Ocean Bank. He has since been sentenced to 13 years behind bars for “intentionally violating state regulations on economic management and causing serious consequences.” The lender’s previous chief executive and former PetroVietnam chairman, however, has been sentenced to death.