5,000 held in World Cup gambling probe

More than 5,000 people have been arrested across Asia in a crackdown on illegal gambling on World Cup football matches, with police seizing nearly $10m (£6.5m), Interpol said.

Raids on nearly 800 gambling dens between 11 June and 11 July targeted illicit betting linked to organised crime in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and China. The coordinated police operation, codenamed SOGA III, was not about match-fixing, a spokeswoman for Interpol said. The three SOGA operations carried out so far have led to nearly 7,000 arrests, the seizure of more than $26m in cash and the closure of gambling dens that handled more than $2bn worth of bets. The gambling dens, including some in Hong Kong and casino haven Macau – both former colonial enclaves in China – had taken more than $155m in bets.

Police also seized cars, bank cards, computers and mobile phones during the raids, which were coordinated by Interpol's general secretariat headquarters in Lyon and its Bangkok liaison office. Gambling is highly restricted in most of communist China, ensuring brisk trade for Macau, which has overtaken Las Vegas as the world's largest gambling market.

"The results we have seen are impressive, not only in the number of arrests and seizures made across the region in just one month, but in terms of the police cooperation which made this possible," said Jean-Michel Louboutin, executive director of Interpol.

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