Malaysia gambling ring netted $1 bln, report says

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A football betting and fraud ring busted by Malaysian police grossed more than $1 billion, reports said, after an operation that led to the arrests of scores of Chinese and Taiwanese nationals.

Police conducted the raid in the city of Kajang, near capital Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday after receiving a tip-off, the latest high-profile effort to clamp down on rampant illegal sports betting in Asia.

The Malaysia ring operated for a month from several luxury bungalows in an upscale gated community "home to several ministers and former cabinet members," The Star Newspaper reported.

Police believe the operation raked in nearly four billion ringgit ($1.3 billion), it said.

The bungalows had closed-circuit video systems for security and police found "suspects engrossed in their laptops and telephones in a classroom-like atmosphere with all the tables neatly arranged in rows," the report added.

Suspects were equipped with 241 mobile phones and 43 computers, the New Straits Times said.

Kajang police chief Abdul Rashid Abdul Wahab told AFP Thursday the group took bets on English Premier League football games and organised other forms of online gambling.

Football, particularly the English game, is hugely popular in Malaysia but sports betting is illegal and those found guilty can be jailed.

Abdul Rashid said the group also carried out Internet scams that sought to obtain the credit card numbers of people in China, Taiwan and Portugal.

The Star said members had detailed scripts to follow in dealing with victims.

Abdul Rashid said 132 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals along with five Malaysians were arrested, but the Star quoted police sources saying 144 people were netted, including 54 women.

Reports quoted police as saying the foreign suspects, mostly in their 20s, had arrived in Malaysia in early March.

Neither the police nor the press reports have indicated who was behind the operation.