Paul Phua has prior conviction for same offense in Malaysia

    According to local Malaysian media citing police documents, gambling kingpin Paul Phua Wei-seng was arrested in Malaysia in 2004 and convicted for his involvement in an illegal betting scheme during the European Championship soccer tournament. Phua was slapped with a hefty fine and reportedly fled to Vietnam to escape people who lost money.

    Phua, a Malaysian native from Sarawak, is currently facing charges in Las Vegas, where he is accused of running an illegal World Cup gambling operation from a number of luxury suites in the city’s Caesars Palace hotel. Messages found on his computer during a police raid suggest that bets of the alleged operation reached a “grand total” of HK$2.7 billion ($34.8 million), according to court documents. 

    The case has been high profile in Malaysia as Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wrote a letter in support of Phua to the deputy director of the FBI, denying allegations that Phua is a member of Hong Kong’s notorious 14K triad and claiming that Phua was assisting the nation on issues of national security, though he declined to say exactly how.

    The letter was later withdrawn from the case on protest by the Malaysian government, saying it was a “private and confidential letter”.

    Once known as “The Shot”, Phua was Macau’s top earning junket operator a decade ago, before becoming a prominent high-stakes poker player. The FBI believe he plays a central role in one of the world’s biggest sports gambling agencies, IBCBet, and police have called him “the biggest bookie in Asia”.