Interpol cracks down on World Cup gambling in Asia

PARIS (AP) - More than 5,000 people have been taken into custody in a crackdown on illegal World Cup gambling in Asia, where police raided hundreds of betting dens, international police agency Interpol said Friday.

Interpol coordinated the operation in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and China, including Hong Kong and Macau.

Police also seized $10 million in the operation targeting gambling linked to organized crime.

"As well as having clear connections to organized crime gangs, illegal soccer gambling is also linked with corruption, money laundering and prostitution," the Lyon-based organization's No.

2 official Jean-Michel Louboutin said. The operation "will have a significant long-term impact on these serious offenses as well," he said.

Police raided nearly 800 illegal gambling dens that dealt with bets of more than $155 million, Interpol said in a statement.

The operation ran from June 11 to July 11. Police also confiscated cars, bank cards, computers and cell phones, and the materials "will now be reviewed and analyzed to determine the potential involvement of other individuals or gangs across the region and beyond," Interpol said.

Calls to China's Ministry of Public Security rang unanswered late Friday. But according to a July 8 statement posted on the ministry's website, police uncovered more than 900 cases of online World Cup gambling, and detained or arrested more than 4,400 people.

The total of seized and frozen funds added up to nearly 800 million yuan ($118 million), the statement said.

Singapore police said they arrested 36 suspected gamblers and bookmakers last week, breaking up a 1.5 million Singapore dollar ($1.1 million) illegal betting operation.

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