Illegal gambling syndicate agents collected up to $20m in 9 years

SINGAPORE - Agents of one of the largest organised crime syndicates uncovered in Singapore collected between $9.7 million and $20.2 million from people for about nine years since 2007, a district court heard on Friday (Dec 14).

One of the agents, Lim Teng Kok, who worked as a part-time hawker stall helper, pleaded guilty to three offences under the new Organised Crime Act, which was passed in Parliament in 2015 and took effect in June 2016.

Under the Act, enforcement agencies have more powers to disrupt the activities of organised crime groups and stop them from getting a foothold in Singapore.

Lim, 68, also admitted to two other charges involving illegal gambling activities.

He was linked to the illegal gambling syndicate whose members were among the first people to be charged with offences under the Act on Nov 29, 2016.

Reports in The Straits Times stated that more than 30 suspects involved in illegal remote gambling services were arrested earlier that month, following one of the largest police operations against a criminal syndicate.

On Friday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia said Lim started buying illegal 4D from a man known only as Ah Tee from 2001 to 2002.

Lim then worked as an illegal 4D collector for him in 2005. Two years later, Lim was told he could earn more money if he worked directly under Ah Tee's boss, a man known as Ah Peng, later established to be Lean Kay Cheong, now 62.

According to court documents, Lean later recruited Lim, and as part of the arrangement, Lim would have to source for his own punters to place illegal 4D and Toto bets with him. These punters also placed bets directly with Lim.

DPP Teo told District Judge Ng Peng Hong: "The accused would get a commission of 10 per cent of the total bets collected from his own punters. If the accused's punters struck lottery, he would receive an additional 5 per cent of the winning amount."

She added that Lim later had 80 punters placing illegal bets with him. Over time, he became a "master agent" and recruited a pool of about 15 agents under him. These agents would then collect illegal bets from punters.

The court heard that Lim earned more than $200,000 in commission between 2007 and 2015 in total.

DPP Teo urged Judge Ng to sentence him to five years and four months' jail with a fine of $288,000. She said the court should send a strong message to deter others from committing similar offences.

Defence lawyer Steven Lam pleaded for his client to be handed a jail sentence of between three years and eight months and four years, with a $200,000 fine. He said Lim committed the offences due to dire financial circumstances and had to raise funds to treat his daughter's kidney failure.

Lim was offered bail of $15,000 and is expected to be sentenced on Jan 15 next year.

Several other offenders linked to the syndicate were dealt with in court earlier. One of them, newspaper vendor Or Poh Soon, 55, who collected bets and sourced for punters, was the first person to plead guilty to offences under the Organised Crime Act. He was sentenced to two years' jail and a fine of $50,000 in June this year.

The syndicate was allegedly led by three brothers: Steven Seet Seo Boon, 54; Eric Seet Seow Huat, 63; and Philip Seet Sian Thian, 70. The cases involving the trio, Lean and some other members are still pending.

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