|Phan Sao Nam (R) and Nguyen Van Duong are accused of being the masterminds behind the ring (Photo: Ministry of Public Security)
The announcement was issued after a number of domestic newspapers ran inaccurate reports on the investigation into and initial investigation outcomes of the case. The ministry did not clarify which parts of which reports were inaccurate.
The ministry said many organisations and persons took advantage of information technology and the internet to organise online gambling rings through betting or card games. Among those card games, Rikvip, which was later renamed Tip.club, was organised in a sophisticated manner and on a large scale, attracting millions of gamblers with trillions of VND.
Rikvip began operations on April 18, 2015 on the websites rikvip.com and rikvip.vn, featuring 42 games simulating different forms of gambling. It was renamed Tip.club in August 2016 and operated as mobile and computer applications.
To join the games, gamblers created accounts and sent money to buy virtual scores, called RIK, to those accounts through pre-paid telecom cards (Viettel, Mobifone, Vinaphone), game cards (Zing, Gate, Vcoin, Megacard, GoCoin, Vcard), and bank accounts, or directly buy virtual scores at Rikvip agencies.
After winning or losing games, gamblers could convert RIK into money by selling RIK to Rikvip agencies or selling pre-paid telecom card numbers and game card numbers, sending money to telephone accounts, or by using payment gateways.
To help gamblers send money to their game accounts, gambling organisers used legal entities they set up to connect with payment gateways (VNPT EPAY, Ngan Luong, HOMEDIRECT, Giai tri so) so gamblers could use pre-paid telecom cards and game cards to send money. They also used the National Payment Corporation of Vietnam (NAPAS) services to help gamblers send money to game accounts from bank accounts while issuing Vcard and GoCoin game cards with the same purpose.
The gambling organisers set up a system of gambling agencies nationwide, including 25 tierl-1 agencies and 5,852 tier-2 agencies.
Thanks to the convenient payment system and widespread advertising online, Rikvip/Tip.club attracted a large number of gamers, becoming the disguised gambling system with the largest scale and revenue in Vietnam, according to the MoPS.
The investigation found that from April 18, 2015 to August 29, 2017, there were 42,956,715 accounts on the Rikvip/Tip.club system. Each gambler had an average of three accounts, so the total gamblers could number more than 14 million.
After investigating, in August 2017, the MoPS decided to prepare to tackle the case. At the same time, police of northern Phu Tho province were probing a case of “using the internet to appropriate assets” in the province and carried out legal procedures against some suspects involved in the tier-1 agencies in the MoPS’s investigation. Leaders of the ministry assigned the investigation to the Investigation Security Agency under the Department of Public Security of Phu Tho province.
On August 29, 2017, the Investigation Security Agency under the Department of Public Security of Phu Tho province, launched legal procedures against persons and organisations involved in the organisation of gambling through Rikvip/Tip.club.
With the permission of the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat, on March 11, 2018, the Investigation Security Agency launched legal proceedings against and detained Nguyen Thanh Hoa, former director of the MoPS’s police department for high-tech crimes, for organising gambling.
Phan Sao Nam (born in 1979, former Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director of the VTC Online Telecommunications Company – VTC online) and Nguyen Van Duong (born in 1975, former Chairman of the Member Council of the Hi-tech Security Development and Investment Ltd. Co. – CNC) are accused of being the masterminds behind the ring.
Meanwhile, Hoang Thanh Trung (born in 1978, Deputy Director of the Nam Viet Investment Development Service Co. Ltd and former Director of the VTC Technology and Digital Content Company – VTC Intecom) was also arrested for his deep involvement in the case.
The offence was supported by many persons, the ministry noted, adding that as of March 14, 2018, the investigation agency launched legal proceedings against 83 persons. Among them, 41 persons were prosecuted for the charge of organising gambling, 38 for gambling, four for illegally trading invoices, two for laundering money and one using the internet to appropriate assets.
Police are currently detaining 31 persons, banning 42 from leaving their living places and hunting for eight others. Two people are out on bail.
The probe initially found that the money paid via legal and illegal payment gateways exceeded VND9.58 trillion (around US$422 million), including more than VND9.29 trillion via pre-paid telecom cards and game cards, accounting for 97% of the total money involved. About VND168 billion (US$7.4 million) was sent from bank accounts.
Police have so far seized assets (cash and houses) worth nearly VND1.24 trillion (US$54.5 million) in total and 12 cars.
The probe into the case is being expanded.