Paul Phua, the multimillionaire businessman and high-stakes poker player currently embroiled in an illegal sports betting case out of Las Vegas, was reportedly already charged with similar offenses in Malaysia 11 years ago.
According to Malaysiakini, an independent media outlet based in Malaysia, Phua was arrested back in 2004 for operating an illegal sports betting ring during the European Championships (a major soccer event).
At the time, Phua was fined, and was later forced to leave the country after the company went bust and a number of bettors went after Phua for their money.
In fact, such was Malaysian government’s suspicions towards Phua that he was banned from re-entering the country during the 2008 World Cup for fear that he might try to carry out another illegal betting operation.
Another damning accusation that’s currently being leveled at Phua is an alleged series of bribes to officials in Macau.
Just weeks before he was arrested in Las Vegas, Phua was part of a group accused of running another sports betting operation in Macau. Despite facing a possible jail term, Phua was released and able to travel to the US.
After investigating this incident, the FBI claim to have intelligence which suggests Phua paid around $650,000 in “under the table” payments to local police officers in order to secure his release. The federal agency claims a series of instant messages were sent on the topic by Phua’s son, Darren.
Phua’s attorney, David Chesnoff, balked at the claims, and suggested that the FBI was reliant on “illegally obtained evidence” in an effort to “prejudice” the case against Phua.
This significance of these stories could certainly impact Phua’s fortunes in the US, where he currently faces a series of charges related to his arrest back in July. Along with seven other individuals, including his son Darren, Phua was taken in by the FBI after suspected illegal sports betting activities inside Caesars Palace during the 2014 World Cup in July.
An investigation into the incident has been ongoing since last summer, and the FBI claims to have evidence that the illegal sports betting operation raked in $13 million in profit between June and July. Phua has denied the charges, despite some of his associates entering a plea bargain with US authorities.
Discussing Phua with a Malaysian police source, Malaysiakini suggested that the high stakes gambler is known to intelligence agencies as “the biggest bookie in Asia.”
It’s alleged that Phua has connections to IBCBet, one of the largest gambling agencies in the world, and it’s through these channels that he’s reportedly been able to run sports betting operations in various locations across the world.
Phua’s trial is expected to lag on for the coming months, as his legal team continues to battle against the charges.