Paul Phua, 14 others absolved in sports betting trial

The Court of First Instance (TJB) has acquitted Malaysian online poker and gambling giant Paul Phua Wei Seng of conducting illegal sports betting during the FIFA World Cup, a charge made against him nearly five years ago.

The TJB ruled on Tuesday that Phua, along with another 14 defendants, were not guilty of conducting illegal operations at Wynn Macau rooms between June 7 and 21 of 2014.

None of the defendants were present at any of the trial sessions held in the city.

During the February 12 trial – which lasted for just two days – several Judiciary Police (PJ) inspectors were witnesses.

Some HKD1.16 billion in bets were placed through the group during the two- week period – allegedly the largest illegal sportsbook that was conducted in the region during that period.

Presiding judge Lei Wai Seng mentioned that the PJ complied with the law during its surveillance. However, the authorities had failed to directly link neither Phua nor his co-defendants to placing bets on World Cup matches.

He also said that the Public Prosecutors Office and the PJ had failed to acquire sufficient evidence to prove that Phua was the owner of the apprehended computers that contained betting information.

“The court can’t make any connection […] There is a lack of connecting elements,” the judge said, as cited in reports.

The evidence for a sports-betting operations included information stored on several laptops, betting slips, and cellphones, all of which were seized during the June 19, 2014 raids.

Phua, a recognized poker whale, is said to be the founder and principal owner of the Asian online betting giant IBCBet. LV

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