Cops put squeeze on soccer bookies

PHUKET CITY: Some Phuket residents are burning the midnight oil to watch Euro 2004 matches out of sheer love of the game or their homeland. But those wishing to spice up the action by placing wagers on the results had better beware: the island’s top law enforcement officer has stated that his department will continue its crackdown on gambling throughout the month-long tournament, which ends July 10. Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Veerayuth Sittimalic announced that police will be monitoring those with past gambling convictions and will wield money laundering laws against anyone found to be involved. The Anti Money Laundering Office (AMLO), citing a Supreme Court ruling that stipulates it will be able to take retroactive action in civil cases, has vowed to work together with police to seize the assets of football-match bookmakers retroactively. AMLO is now only awaiting the promulgation of legislation that will empower it to do so. Phuket Police have already called in many well-known bookies, known in Thai as to born (literally, ‘football table’), and warned them that they will be kept under surveillance. Schoolchildren and bureaucrats are also being encouraged to squeal on gamblers as part of the effort. Each of the island’s eight police districts has assigned two special units to search out bookies in nightspots and other places they are suspected of operating. A Crime Suppression Division unit has been assigned to oversee the effort island-wide. Officers who fail to uncover or arrest gamblers found in their assigned areas will face disciplinary action, Gen Sittimalic warned. According to a study by Kasikorn Bank’s research center, some 33 billion baht in wagers is expected to change hands during Euro 2004, an average of more than 500 baht for every man, woman and child in the country. Thus far, however, the crackdown in Phuket has yielded an average daily arrest rate of only four punters, none of them big-time bookies. Gen Sittimalic admitted that that the increased use of fax, telephone and Internet had made it increasingly difficult to catch bookmakers.

Phuket News

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