On New Year’s eve, Palau’s law enforcement officers raided three locations in Koror and Airai, arresting over 142 Chinese nationals over suspected illegal online gambling activities. Numerous laptops, cellphones, tokens, personal documents, cash and couple of safes were seized at the locations.
The 18 law enforcement officers from Narcotics Enforcement Agency (NEA), Labor & Immigration, Marine Law Enforcement and Bureau of Public Safety served warrants and made arrests at EU Corp. building at Ochelochel, Airai, a 3-storey building at Klubed at KB Bridge Airai-side, and at High Tide in Malakal, Koror, all suspected of illegal online gambling activities.
All arrested individuals were in Palau on tourist visa and none had a work permit according to police report to the Minister of Justice. Some of the arrested individuals say that they were brought in to work conducting online gambling activities from Cambodia two and four months ago. Others were from mainland China and Vietnam. They were subjected to 12 hours work a day, with one day a week off, and sometimes no days off. They were all living in crammed, tight living quarters at the EU building in Ochelochel. Each person was booked and released for further interviews, their passports confiscated.
Further interviews revealed that many of the “tourist-workers” are paid an average of $800 a month but no taxes or benefits are paid. Review of evidence seized at Klubed site showed that they were earning around $160,000 to $200,000 a month. High Tide which had 116 people compared to Klubed which had 26, is estimated to have earnings five times more than Klubed or an average of $700,000 to over a million dollars a month.
The “tourist-workers” were soliciting gamblers to engage on online gambling and working to structure the transfer of money around to various accounts to prevent alerting Chinese authorities to what they were doing. They were using tokens as means of avoiding detection.
Report from NEA said that the targeted victims were Chinese language speakers based on the language and programming on the devices seized by law enforcement.
Due to the “enormous” number of evidence seized, more information is expected to come out in the following days, according to NEA report.
The only internet gaming legalized in Palau is Virtual Pachinko and Internet Digital Lottery. Only two licenses each are allowed by law and the licenses were issued to two Hong Kong companies. According to report from Revenue and Tax, both companies purchased the licenses in 2019 and have not started operations. (L.N. Reklai)