SINGAPORE: One of the leaders behind a remote gambling syndicate that was described as among the “most profitable and elusive” pleaded guilty in court on Wednesday (Dec 8).
Seet Seo Boon, 57, pleaded guilty to seven charges, including being a member of an organised crime group, recruiting a member to the group, managing remote gambling, and assisting in carrying on a public lottery.
According to court documents, Seet earned at least S$19,000 per month from the collection of bets placed on two remote gambling websites he started.
One of the websites generated about S$1.1 million in revenue on average per week and more than S$120 million over nearly four years, court documents showed,
The 57-year old is the youngest of three brothers who were listed as leaders of the syndicate.
Prosecutors called him “the leader behind one of the most profitable and elusive illegal remote gambling syndicates which thrived under the cloak of technology for half a decade”.
ARRESTED AT HOME
Acting on a tip-off, police officers arrested Seet at his home at The Tropica in Tampines at about 5.10pm on Nov 27, 2016.
When he refused to let them in, officers forced their way into the condominium unit and arrested Seet, who was suspected of remote gambling offences.
Police officers seized items from the unit, including mobile phones, laptops, S$191,689 in cash and four Rolex watches.
Hours later, at about 9.50pm, Seet led officers to his office along North Bridge Road, where more items were seized, including four computers, a laptop and a CCTV system.
Investigations later revealed that Seet had 11 bank accounts that he used for monetary transactions connected to illegal remote gambling activities.
Funds in eight of those accounts were “directly and fully traceable to the proceeds of crime”, court documents stated.
Police arrested Seet and the other syndicate members after a “prolonged period of intensified probes”, said court documents. A total of 49 people, including Seet, were arrested.
Besides the syndicate leaders, a chief runner, three administrative staff members and two IT technicians were also arrested. Four people who received a cut of the profits gained or paid for losses were arrested, together with runners and agents.
Prior to 2011, four Seet brothers had been collecting illegal 4D bets on behalf of others.
In 2011, they decided to set up their own remote gambling website to facilitate the collection of illegal 4D bets from agents and punters.
They channelled “all the bets into the website to earn more profit”, court documents showed.
Seet hired a Malaysian man to help create an online betting platform hosted on the website, which was launched in mid-2011. He paid the man S$1,000 on every draw date – there are three draws a week – to maintain the website.
When the website was first created, Seet and his brothers shared the winnings and losses on 4D bets collected by them. They then expanded their operations by recruiting others to collect illegal 4D bets from punters on their behalf.
“They also promoted several agents to shareholders, to motivate the shareholders to recruit more agents who could collect more bets. These agents, who were directly managed by the shareholders, were also known as master agents,” said court documents.
They also encouraged those who joined them to recruit more people to “increase the revenue of the (syndicate), and to cushion the losses by spreading the losses amongst the members”, court documents state.
Seet and his brothers avoided being caught by the authorities by personally interviewing each prospective member of the syndicate and accepted only “suitable members who agreed to their terms”, the court heard.
Three months after the website was created, one of the brothers withdrew from the syndicate. The three other brothers carried on without him.
From 2011 until his arrest in November 2016, Seet earned at least S$14,000 per month from bets placed through this first website.
In 2013, Seet learned about a “better” and “more efficient” online betting system in Hong Kong, the court heard. The Seet brothers decided to set up a second website using this system.
Seet hired an IT technician to get the second website up and running. Seet paid about S$180,000 for the website’s three servers, and also paid the technician about S$2,000 per month to maintain the site.
From 2013 until his arrest in November 2016, Seet earned at least S$5,000 per month from bets collected through this second website.
According to court documents, Seet earned a 15 per cent commission from the total value of bets placed through both betting websites. He also earned an additional 5 per cent to 10 per cent from the total winnings arising from his agents and punters’ bets.
The syndicate had “numerous sub-groups and clusters”, with one cluster comprising at least 89 agents, of whom only seven were arrested.
In total, the syndicate generated about S$1.11 million in revenue on average per week from three 4D draws, court documents showed.
From Jan 1, 2013, to Nov 27, 2016, the syndicate received a total revenue of more than S$127.6 million.
Seet also pleaded guilty to using illegal proceeds from his syndicate to make mortgage repayments on a three-room condominium unit along River Valley Close.
Prosecutors sought a sentence of at least 10 years and six months’ jail and a fine of S$720,000 for Seet.
“This case presents a rare opportunity for the court to mete out a strongly deterrent sentence to the leader behind one of the most profitable and elusive illegal remote gambling syndicates which thrived under the cloak of technology for half a decade,” the prosecution said.
“It is only right and just that the accused, having evaded the law for years and derived a sizeable amount of profits from his covert illegal operations, now faces the full force of the law.”
Defence lawyers Josephus Tan and Cory Wong of Invictus Law sought a sentence of between seven-and-a-half to eight years’ jail and a fine of S$235,000.
They said Seet was the first of the three leaders to plead guilty, and that he did not have “any relevant and recent antecedents”.
He is set to be sentenced in January next year.