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New Coalition to Fight Illegal Gambling and Scams in Southeast Asia

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an international organization consisting of 10 states in Southeast Asia, received the support of China for a new initiative that seeks to address transnational organized crime groups involved in illegal gambling and scams . The initiative, organized in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), seeks to sever the activity of such criminal groups that have been growing their presence recently.



In particular, the initiative will fight against criminal activities in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Myanmar, among other countries in the region. Ultimately, the plan seeks to prevent criminal groups from growing their presence, identify them and at the same time protect the victims that may be involved.



The strategic plan encourages effective collaboration between law enforcement and criminal justice officials for investigations related to, but not limited to illegal gambling , scams, human trafficking and migrant smuggling. A recent report released by UNODC revealed that forced labor and trafficking are only a few of the aspects of transnational organized crime groups operating across Southeast Asia.



The report reveals that transnational crime groups are often involved in large-scale money laundering, cybercrimes, as well as cross-border illegal gambling , among other related criminal activities. Additionally, such groups have also been involved in extortion and in some cases torture. UNODC’s report uncovered that transnational organized crime groups sometimes even present themselves as legitimate businesses and may have established relationships with influential officials and companies.



Robust Approach Is Required to Fight Transnational Crime Groups



While the total profits of organized crime groups in the Philippines are difficult to estimate, the scam industry alone may be generating between $7.5 billion and $12.5 billion , according to the report. This figure represents nearly half of the gross domestic product of the country. Additionally, the whitepaper revealed that ill-gained funds move through different businesses in the region, including casinos.




“ Profits of organized crime groups in the region have reached unprecedented levels, and illicit money is increasingly moving through the regional casino industry and other large cash flow businesses, including through a surge in the use of cryptocurrencies, “
reads the recent report by the UNODC



Jeremy Douglas , UNODC’s regional representative, spoke about the increasing threat of trafficking of people who are forced to participate in scams and illegal gambling operations run by criminal organizations . He called for cooperation that can help reduce the crime rate in the region, particularly around the Mekong. Douglas explained that criminal organizations “are converging in the region where they see vulnerabilities.”



Rebecca Miller , UNODC’s regional advisor on human trafficking and migrant smuggling, added that the dismantling of transnational criminal groups requires a robust approach . According to her, the new plan seeks to implement a comprehensive and strategic approach to fight transnational crime.

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