Posted on: September 25, 2023, 06:45h.
Last updated on: September 25, 2023, 06:45h.
One of the masterminds behind the recent massive money-laundering scandal in Singapore reportedly has an extensive history in the gambling space. Wang Bingang is a Chinese national and an illegal gambling entrepreneur who is now trying to avoid capture for his alleged involvement in the scheme, according to The Straits Times.
Wang is the owner of Hongli International, a former Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) that apparently went rogue when the Philippines cracked down on the segment. He reportedly operated out of the Philippines and Cambodia, making millions of dollars each year since the company first launched in 2012.
When Singapore launched its raids in August, Wang was one of several accused who escaped. Authorities are trying to determine his whereabouts, although they’re not getting a lot of cooperation from the public.
Man on the Run
Someone from The Straits Times reportedly visited Wang’s house in Tanglin, Singapore, an upper-class neighborhood, to learn more about the case. A “domestic helper” told the media outlet that Wang and his wife, Wang Liyun, were still living there but added that they weren’t home at the time.
Others the media outlet spoke with said that the couple hadn’t been around for a long time. However, some family members reportedly still lived in the home and were regularly seen.
Hongli International was one of the first licensed POGOs before the crackdown in the Philippines. Subsequently, Wang allegedly relocated the operations to Cambodia, where he was able to continue without oversight.
Soon after Wang launched his gambling business, Chinese authorities were looking for him on illegal gambling charges. They caught up with him in 2014, accusing Hongli International of earning hundreds of millions of dollars illegally.
At the time, Wang was living in Cambodia, where he held citizenship. Because of that, Chinese authorities weren’t able to reach him as long as he didn’t venture out in public.
For weeks, Wang stayed locked inside a hotel room to avoid arrest. However, he finally slipped up and apparently wanted to go to a restaurant. That was when the Chinese authorities swooped in and arrested him, subsequently sending him back to China.
Wang began serving a three-year prison sentence the following year in China, and apparently picked up where he left off following his release.
Business has been thriving since then for Wang and his cohorts. The authorities are still looking for him, unsure if he left Singapore or if he’s getting help to stay out of sight.
Money-Laundering Investigation Grows
The money-laundering scandal continues to grow – the authorities initially seized SGD1 billion (US$740.4 million) in assets before the figure swelled to SGD2.4 billion (US$1.75 billion). It’s likely going to only get bigger over the next few weeks.
Wang and Hongli International aren’t the only focus of the investigation. Another group, Heng Bo Bao Wang, has landed on investigators’ radars for its possible involvement, as well.
One of its leaders, Wang Shuiming, is among the 10 people the police arrested in the initial raid. He’s looking at money laundering and forgery charges, and may be making a deal in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Banks in Singapore are already providing assistance with the investigation, and it’s possible that the fallout is reaching other Asian regions. While it didn’t specifically link its decision to the money-laundering scandal, Indonesia announced over the weekend that it will close all bank accounts that could be involved in illegal gambling.
The Financial Services Authority said on Sunday that Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology had requested that certain bank accounts be blocked. Those accounts were allegedly receiving deposits from illegal online gambling activity.
That led to the decision to crack down on any bank account that might be tied to online gambling. As the Singapore investigation continues, there could be more fallout across the entire Asian region.