Paul Phua Was Arrested in Malaysia in 2004 for Running an Illegal Sports Betting Ring
Records show that the Paul Phua Wei-sang, the man on trial in the United States for running an illegal sports betting operation, has a conviction for the same offense back in his homeland of Malaysia.
In 2004, independent newspaper Malaysiakini reports Paul Phua Wei-seng was arrested in Malaysia for allegedly running an illegal sports gambling ring based around the 2004 European Championships. Phua paid a large fine for his misconduct and was allowed to leave the country. Phua is thought to have moved to Vietnam, perhaps to flee retribution at the hand of creditors he might have owed money to when his gambling ring was busted.
Home Minister Khalid Caused Outrage
The news has caused a great deal of consternation in Malaysia. In December 2014, the Home Minister of Malaysia suggested Paul Phua was helping the government on matters of national security. He also suggested that he had written the FBI to tell them Phua would be welcomed back to his home country with open arms and rumors that Phua was associated with Chinese organized crime were simple speculation.
That opinion was not seconded by a man under the Home Minister’s supervision: the chief of police in Kuala Lumpur. The police chief said his division had warned the FBI about Paul Phua’s connections to a Chinese triad (14k) in 2008.
Arrest in Hong Kong
Paul Phua’s criminal conduct in 2014 was prolific. He and a group of 17 other men were arrested in Hong Kong in June 2014, reportedly for running an illegal sports betting ring based on the Brazilian World Cup matches. The 13 Malaysian men were deported, while the 5 Chinese men faced criminal charges.
Arrest at Caesars Palace
The next month, Paul Phua and 7 other men, including his 22-year old son, Darren, were arrested at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. Phua and his associates had rented three suites at Caesars Palace and had the equipment set up to monitor World Cup matches and organize a betting ring. Caesars’ staff noticed the operation and alerted managers, who contacted Nevada Gaming Control board agents. Soon enough, those Control agents and FBI agents were raiding Phua’s suites.
To collect information, the FBI had a local Internet service provider provide shoddy service to Phua’s suites. This allowed FBI agents discussed as Geek Squad technicians gain access to Phua’s rooms, under the auspices of fixing the Internet problems. They collected enough information to mount a joint raid of federal and state law enforcement personnel.
$2.7 Billion in Sports Bets
The computers Phua and his associates were using contained damning evidence. For instance, one document shows the illegal sports betting ring had taken $2.7 billion Hong Kong dollars in wagers. Another piece of record keeping suggested the operation had netted $13 million in rake for Phua illegal operation.
At present, Paul Phua and his son are awaiting trial in Las Vegas. Five of his associated were charged with crimes, but have since signed plea bargain arrangements in which they implicated Phua. A sixth man was charged with a lesser crime and deported from the country.
Phua’s Lawyers Have Scored Points
Phua’s lawyers, including one who is known as the “official” lawyer of Malaysia’s top political party, have mounted a spirited defense. They are challenging the evidence the FBI got in its sting operation, saying suspects (including foreign suspects) have the right of protection from illegal searches. That is, unless the FBI agents had a warrant to search his hotel suites and served that warrant, than they needed Phua’s permission to enter and search the room.
The soundness of that legal logic has not been determined by the judge in the case. According to an internal memo of the FBI revealed by the Associated Press, at least one lawyer at the FBI warned the agents their evidence was likely to be thrown out of court, if a trial ensued. If that occurs, then Paul Phua could walk. All the US government would have at that point is the testimony of his associates, who would not appear that reliable in court.
Whatever the case, Paul Phua’s arrests in the United States, China, and Malaysia have caused big controversy back home. Paul Phua is a poker pro and high stakes gambler in Vegas ring games. He was also the non-resident ambassador for the tiny Italian peninsula nation of San Marino to the Balkan nation of Montenegro–part of the former Yugoslavia. He is said to be worth $400 million, with friends among the elite of the poker circuit (such as Phil Ivey).