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Malaysia police arrest almost 200 over soccer bets

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysian police have arrested almost 200 people in raids on illegal World Cup betting that bust a group drawing daily wagers of US$2.3 million, an official said Friday, after similar crackdowns in Macau, Singapore and Thailand.

The arrests included four people held for allegedly being involved in the group which raked in 7.5 million ringgit (US$2.3 million) in bets every day since the tournament kicked off, said Malaysia's federal crime investigation deputy director Mazlan Mansor.

The total amount waged was about 105 million ringgit (US$33 million).

He added 12 servers, believed to be supporting a gambling website with networks in the Asia-Pacific region, were seized in the raids in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Since the World Cup began on June 12 in Brazil, a total of 194 people, mostly men, have been held, Mazlan told AFP, adding he expected police to make more arrests before the competition ends next month.

They could face up to five years in prison if charged and found guilty under the Muslim-majority country's betting act, he added.

In neighboring Thailand, police said Wednesday that they had arrested more than 1,000 people over illegal World Cup betting, seizing betting slips worth US$525,000 during raids.

Those arrested include a Malaysian, a Macau national and two people from Hong Kong.

Also this week, Singapore police said they had held 15 people suspected of having received illegal bets amounting to about SG$800,000 (US$641,000) in the past two weeks in the city-state, which has become notorious for football-linked crime.

And in Macau, police busted an illegal gambling outfit that racked up HK$5 billion (US$645 million) in wagers on the World Cup in a week — including a single bet of US$5.1 million.

Twenty-two people were arrested in the operation, which police described as the largest-ever case of its kind in the Asian gambling enclave, according to reports.

During the last World Cup in 2010, police in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand arrested more than 5,000 people in a coordinated swoop against illegal football betting.

During the monthlong operation, officers had raided more than 800 illegal gambling dens that had handled more than US$155 million in bets.

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