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Singapore

'Master agent' collected up to S$20m in 4D, TOTO bets for illegal gambling ring

SINGAPORE: A 68-year-old "master agent" who collected up to S$20 million in illegal 4D and TOTO bets for one of Singapore's largest illegal betting syndicates pleaded guilty on Friday (Dec 14) to various gambling and organised crime charges.

Lim Teng Kok's path to becoming master agent in the multimillion dollar illegal gambling ring, which was crippled in 2016, began when he started buying illegal 4D from a person called Ah Tee in 2001.

In 2005, Lim - a part-time helper at a hawker stall - started working for Ah Tee as an illegal 4D collector in order to earn more money to pay the medical bills for his daughter. According to his defence lawyer, she was diagnosed with kidney failure and hepatitis C.

His job entailed collecting illegal 4D bets from his friends for Ah Tee, who agreed to give him a 5 per cent commission of the bets.

In 2007, Ah Tee recommended that Lim would be able to earn more money if he worked directly for Ah Tee's boss, an individual by the name of Lean Kay Cheong.

Lim was subsequently recruited as a remote gambling agent under Lean, and given 10 per cent commission of all bets from the punters he would have to source for. If his punters struck lottery, Lim would receive an additional 5 per cent of the winning amount.

In 2012, Lim started recruiting his own agents and by 2016 had 16 agents and 80 punters under him.

In all, Lim collected between S$9.7 million and S$20 million during the nine years he worked for the illegal gambling ring.

ILLEGAL GAMBLING SITUATION IN SINGAPORE OF CONCERN: PROSECUTOR

The syndicate, one of the largest uncovered in Singapore to date, had an estimated turnover of about S$26.6 million between June 2016 and Nov 2016 alone, the prosecution said.

Lim had played "a critical role" in the organisation, according to court documents, and was actively involved in sourcing for punters and receiving bets from them and his agents on all five 4D and TOTO draw dates per week.

Lim was arrested in Nov 2016 after Criminal Investigation Department officers received information that he was part of the syndicate and raided his home.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia asked for a S$288,000 fine to be imposed, along with a jail sentence of at least five years and four months.

She said that the illegal gambling situation in Singapore is of concern, despite continuing enforcement action, and pointed out that the offences were difficult to detect.

Lim and other 48 people involved with the syndicate were arrested by the police only after a prolonged period of intensified probes, Ms Teo said.

Between 2007 and Feb 2015, Lim earned 10 per cent commission of all bets from his punters, and an average of about 1.5 per cent of the bets collected from agents.

This meant Lim collected more than S$200,000 in commission during that time, Ms Teo said. This did not include the additional 5 per cent commission he received if his punters struck lottery.

From Mar 2015 to when he was arrested in Nov 2016, Lim earned about S$88,000 to S$110,000 in commission.

ACCUSED NEEDED TO PAY BILLS, SUPPORT DAUGHTER WITH KIDNEY FAILURE: DEFENCE

Lim's defence lawyer Steven Lam said his client became involved with the gambling ring because of the "dire financial circumstances" he faced, including hefty medical bills.

Lim, who had been working part-time as a helper in a hawker stall from 1994, earned about S$1,800 a month, which was not enough to support his homemaker wife and two children.

In 2005, his daughter was diagnosed with kidney failure and hepatitis C and hospitalised, Mr Lam said.

It was around this time that Lim turned to Ah Tee in order to "earn money quickly", he said.

Lim donated his kidney to his daughter around 2009, and his health has since deteriorated, Mr Lam said.

He now suffers from a slew of medical conditions including gastritis, severe obstructive sleep apnea, hepatic cysts and has multiple gallstones.

Lim on Friday pleaded guilty to five charges including managing remote gambling, assisting in the carrying on of public lotteries and acting as a member of an organised criminal group. Another 17 charges will be taken into consideration for sentencing.

Mr Lam asked the court to "be as lenient as possible" to Lim and to give him a jail sentence of between 44 months and 48 months, with a fine of S$200,000.

He will return to court for sentencing next month.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story used a picture of a Singapore Pools outlet. The picture has since been changed. We apologise for the error.

Source: CNA/ll(aj)

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