On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, 59 people were arrested for alleged illegal gambling operations at Semiich, Ngerchemai in Koror State.
According to press release issued by the Office of the Special Prosecutor, upon a routine license check, a restaurant was found storing bunk beds which prompted investigators to look for owners of the bunk beds. Upon further search, investigators found what is suspected to be an illegal online gambling operation. Multiple computer workstations, cellphones, active monitors, electronic devices, and paraphernalia were found.
A search warrant was executed to seize all suspected illegal gambling accessories and identify people involved including those present during the search warrant.
The foreign workers found through the investigation were Chinese nationals from the People’s Republic of China.
Identification of the foreign nationals will be revealed after verifications according to information from the Office of the Special Prosecutor.
The report also states that Special Prosecutor April Dawn Cripps will be prosecuting the case with support from Jacob Gordin, Assistant Special Prosecutor.
Special Prosecutor April Dawns explained to Island Times that the apprehension was result of collaboration between Foreign Investment Board, Anti-Human Trafficking and the Office of Special Prosecutor.
“The three agencies were working separately on aspects of other issues that eventually led us to speak with one another and collaborate on this case. FIB was working on licensing matters; AHTO was working on trafficking issues and the OSP was working on corruption complaints. The other matters are still under investigation but this part of the investigation was ready for us to move forward together and halt the suspected illegal activity,” stated SP Dawns.
SP further explains, “Because the OSP prosecutes complaints that come to us if the evidence warrants it, we drafted the search warrant and took the lead in the ultimate disposition of this case following the collaborative discussion with all the three agencies.”
In response to why the Taskforce(created by Executive Order to investigate illegal cyber-based activities) was not involved, SP Dawns explained, “The taskforce chose its own membership and the OSP was not asked to be part of the taskforce. Therefore, questions as to what they are doing or how they are handling their cases need to be directed to them. We do not have much to say on the topic because the taskforce does not choose to coordinate its efforts with us.”
“We work with other agencies and individuals throughout the national government as much as possible to be more effective in our work on behalf of the people of the Republic. The teamwork not only helps to build camaraderie but the expanded group bring more ideas and solutions to the table in the fight against criminal activities,” stated SP April Dawns in response to Island Times queries.
In January of this year, 208 chinese nationals were arrested for operating illegal online gaming businesses by the Taskforce with more suspected to still operating in Palau.
Proposal to legalize and expand online gaming as industry in Palau is now before congress and at recent public hearing on the bill, majority of the people who attended vehemently opposed any form of online gaming business in Palau. A circulating online petition has garnered over 600 signatures opposing the measure.
NOTE: A criminal complaint (Information) contains allegations that a defendant committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.