Paul Phua, the Malaysian poker pro and bookmaker who dominated the legal headlines throughout much of 2015, is in hot water again, this time for arriving via private jet to the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia during the Aussie Millions event last week. Phua didn’t play poker though, and tongues were wagging about the man who beat the US legal system in late 2015.
Phua, having had his sports betting case thrown out of court last year, is still being scrutinized, according to the Australian news site Four Corners. State and federal law enforcement officials throughout Australia have identified him, reportedly one of the largest bookmakers in the world, as a “potential threat to the integrity of sport” across the nation. What that specifically means is unclear, however.
Major sports such as tennis, basketball, football, and soccer have all faced match-fixing accusations in recent years. Although the motivation for this illegal activity may vary, matches are often fixed by bookmakers as a way for an athlete to pay off a gambling debt.
Phua isn’t known as any old ordinary bookmaker. He owns IBCBet, a major unregulated online sports betting website that accepts illegal betting action from customers in black markets across Asia, even as many Asian countries don’t allow online gambling.
Phua was arrested in Las Vegas in 2014 for an alleged illegal gambling operation in the Caesars Las Vegas villas involving that year’s FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. All charges were dropped against him 11 months later when his attorney David Chesnoff was able to have FBI evidence thrown out of the case for not having been obtained legally.
US District Judge Andrew Gordon dismissed the case after prosecutors informed him they no longer had enough evidence to get a conviction without the FBI material to present. The decision to drop the case came on the heels of Gordon denying the prosecution the ability to use some of the key evidence against Phua.
Upon his arrest in 2014, prominent poker players Andrew Robl, Phil Ivey, and Tom Dwan came to Phua’s defense, even putting up the $2 million needed to bail him out of jail.
Why the big-name stars bailed him out is unknown, although many in the poker community suggested Phua’s presence at the poker tables at the “Big Game” in Macau in China was worth paying to get him out of jail. Whether the whale made it out of the country during his US-based trial is a little unclear, however.