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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ahmad Zahid tells FBI gambling kingpin not a triad member, says report

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reportedly vouched for a Malaysian who is facing illegal bookmaking charges in Las Vegas, saying Paul Phua Wei Seng has helped the government. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, December 31, 2014.Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi reportedly vouched for a Malaysian who is facing illegal bookmaking charges in Las Vegas, saying Paul Phua Wei Seng has helped the government. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, December 31, 2014.
The home minister reportedly vouched for a Malaysian who is facing illegal bookmaking charges in Las Vegas, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported today.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was reported to have sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in support of Paul Phua Wei Seng, who was arrested in Las Vegas in July.
"Phua is neither a member nor is he associated with the 14K Triad in Malaysia," Zahid said in the letter addressed to FBI deputy director Mark F. Giuliano.
"Accordingly, we continue to call upon him to assist us from time to time and as such, we are eager for him to return to Malaysia."
The SCMP reported that Phua, a former Macau junket operator, was facing illegal bookmaking charges in Las Vegas after being arrested during the World Cup.
Phua's defence team submitted Zahid's letter, marked “private & confidential”, to the United States District Court in Las Vegas on Monday.
Phua's lawyers have consistently refuted allegations that their client had any ties with Hong Kong's organised crime groups since his arrest in July.
In the letter, Zahid did not elaborate on what matters of national security Phua had assisted Malaysia nor could his office be reached for immediate comment, the SCMP reported.
Phua, 50, and his son stand accused of running an illegal gambling operation from suites at the Caesar’s Palace Hotel in Las Vegas during the World Cup in Brazil earlier this year.
An online message found on his computer during a police raid suggested that bets of the alleged operation reached a "grand total" of HK$2.7 billion (RM1.22 billion), according to court documents.
American federal prosecutors alleged the group made a profit of US$13 million (RM45.5 million) in June and July on football bets.
Phua’s lawyers are challenging the admissibility of evidence, including the online message in court.
The allegation that Phua was a triad member was based on an FBI internal document previously submitted to the court, according to the Royal Malaysian Police.
Malaysian police are reported to have informed the FBI’s representative in Kuala Lumpur, of Phua's ties to the criminal organisation.
“The RMP has identified the 14K Triad as a local organised crime syndicate involved in illegal drugs, illegal gambling and money laundering activities in Malaysia,” the internal FBI document dated July 17, 2008, read.
“The RMP has also identified Malaysian Phua Wei Seng as a 14K Triad member.”
The Malaysian with roots in Sarawak was Macau’s top earning junket operator a decade ago, before becoming a prominent high-stakes poker player.
In 2011, he was granted a diplomatic passport by the European microstate of San Marino as its ambassador to Montenegro.
In June, Phua was arrested in Macau in a crackdown on an online betting ring that, according to Macau police, took HK$5 billion in bets. He was deported from the territory.
The raid remains the largest strike on illegal bookmaking in the gambling hub’s history.
The Las Vegas trial’s other defendants – including three Hong Kong residents and Malaysian junket operator Richard Yong Seng Chen – this week pleaded guilty to misdemeanours and were sentenced to unsupervised probation and fines.
- YMI

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