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Paul Phua: The Gambler of Montenegro How poker star, online betting king and suspected member of the Chinese Triads, Paul Phua, used money and influence to win over the Adriatic country by27 November 2018 Montenegro The NATO republic of Montenegro has opened its doors to investment from Malaysian Paul Phua and his network of associates for eight years.
Phua has been named as a member of Hong Kong organised crime group the Triads, according to FBI testimony.
The Montenegrin Government refuses to issue complete information of the PM's whereabouts during the proposed time of the meeting.
Phua has been the owner of one of the largest online betting companies in the world, IBC Bet, according to a confession by a member of his family.
IBC Bet, now called Maxbet, has been called illegal as its operations are accessible to consumers in countries where it does not hold a betting license.
Over six million euros from a named company that owns IBC Bet was deposited in an account of a Montenegrin bank, owned by one of Phua's partners.
Companies linked to Phua… are central to this.
A trial will start next year.
A landmark of Montenegro on an islet in the Adriatic, the exclusive Sveti Stefan Hotel, has highly likely come under the control of Phua and his network.
Phua also owns the company behind the new Maestral Hotel link Montenegro, and there are strong links between the online gambling business of Montenegro and Phua's betting site.
This is a new investigation sourced from insider information, public data and Football Leaks documents obtained by the German news magazine Der Spiegel and shared with The Black Sea, Nacional and their partners in the EIC network, made in collaboration with Montenegrin news site Vijesti.
Hundreds were gathering on a balmy summer evening for a night of bombast and opulence.
This shameless display of affluence heralded the re-opening of the Maestral Hotel and Casino, in the town of Pržno, in NATO member Montenegro, a small Balkan country with just over 600,000 people.
The guest of honour was the Prime Minister Duško Marković, who took to the podium with an address of thanks to the investors in the hotel.
Such lavish praise was accompanied by a ribbon-cutting ceremony, where Markovic stood alongside one of the major investors.
But who is this man?
Phua is a multi-millionaire bookmaker who was convicted for running an illegal betting scheme in Malaysia during the European Football Championships in 2004, and arrested in both Macau and Las Vegas for similar operations in the World Cup in 2014.
There is indication that he bribed his way out of jail in Macau, and the FBI has named him as a known member of the feared Hong Kong-based organised crime group, the 14K Triad.
In both Macao and Las Vegas he evaded conviction.
The bookmaker has been behind IBCBet, crime city underground casino ltb to FBI testimony.
Now called Maxbet, this is one of the largest online betting sites in the world, but is restricted from operating in a plethora of countries.
For three years Phua was Ambassador for San Marino to Montenegro, a position authorised by the Montenegrin Government, despite his shady past.
This trial has been delayed until April 2019, due to the illness of one of the defendants.
But none of this seemed to matter to the political elite of Montenegro, as long as Phua - and his associates - poured in money to the tiny Republic.
Neither the prime minister nor the president's office would answer questions from EIC Network on its relationship with Phua.
In this investigation, we probe into Paul Phua's colourful past, and examine how the Malaysian and his associates bought their way into Montenegrin high society.
The city of Miri, Malaysia.
The night of the Portugal versus Greece Final in the 2004 European Cup.
The local police cut the Internet wire outside a condominium, where an illegal betting ring was taking bets on the game.
The cops broke down the door.
Inside were 20 monitors connected to a satellite dish, overseen by a gang from Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
Among them was the 40 year-old Paul 'Wei Seng' Phua, a sports fan with a smart, mathematical brain who began a gambling career punting on horse-racing in Malaysia, and soon shone as a master of.
But the cops said a deal could be made only.
Phua blurted out the truth, a trial found him guilty, he received a fine, and left the country to Vietnam, stated the newspaper Malaysiakini.
Triads are clandestine criminal groups active in the Chinese territories and Taiwan.
Traditionally, recruits must pass an initiation ceremony including 36 oaths a promise to die if any of casino northfield are broken.
Based in Hong Kong and operational since around 1945, 14K was one of the largest organisations, which has been engaged in illegal gambling, extortion, prostitution, credit card fraud, drug trafficking, and, reportedly, even smuggling elephant ivory.
And they soon expanded their activities to Macao, which was under Portuguese control.
But in the last 30 years, the 14K has adapted to the modern business environment, and operates as a network exchanging favours.
Organised crime, run by the Triads, was operating the VIP rooms of its casinos in Macao until 1999.
But with this gentrification, the Triads did not vanish.
But could Phua have undertaken such a huge activity without being connected to the Triads?
Online betting was becoming a billion-dollar industry in the mid-00s.
But it lacked regulation, and caused a dilemma for international crime enforcement: what happens when such a company operates from one country where it is licensed, but offers its services in another where it is unlicensed?
In the Philippines, there were no qualms about this issue.
Therefore betting sites could open and be registered on its territory for a few dozen thousand dollars, and offer online betting internationally.
In 2008, Firstright Developments Limited, a Manila-based company, was the owner of one of the largest online betting companies IBC Bet, now known as.
Back in 2012, IBC Bet w hit bydgoszczy casino to be the number one betting website in the world, running over 6,000 live matches and processing billions of dollars every month, with the best odds and the highest limits.
In 2014, Phua was named as the operator of this betting site in a U.
Asian betting sites are different from European sites, as punters can place larger bets more often.
Some of these sites also offer bets on minor leagues across Europe, including in Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Switzerland, making them a target for bookmakers who organise fixed matches.
Asian online sites do not have such strict regulations on reporting suspicious betting, and punters can often bet anonymously.
Perumal estimated that two of the main Asian gambling sites - IBCbet and SBObet - had annual turnovers in the billions of dollars.
But there is a fear that the unregulated gaming market is mixed up with organised crime.
By 2010, Phua had re-emerged as an investor in Montenegro, which had regained its independence only four years previously.
On 3 December, he became the co-owner of 16 percent in a local company, First Seafront Estate, where his associate was the firm 'Golden Estate', founded by Greek businessman, Petros Stathis, who was a director there at the time.
The Greek had worked as a general manager for football club AEK Athens, and later became co-proprietor of the company that leases Sveti Stefan Hotel, part of the Aman brand of luxury hotels.
Later Stathis bought up the local media in the tiny state, including the newspapers Pobjeda and Dnevne Novine, the portal Cafe del Montenegro portal CDM and Analitika.
The Greek also invested in the Aman Hotel on the Canal Grande in Venice.
Companies linked to Phua and to his business associate the Greek national Petros Stathis are central to this illegal activity through a number of companies linked to the First Financial Bank of Montenegro.
Phua-related companies linked to betting have made multi-million deposits at the bank, but the Montenegrin authorities have told us they have found no evidence of money laundering.
Only a few months after setting up business in Montenegro, the poker-playing betting guru had taken on a new role - in Balkan diplomacy.
On 1 February 2011, Phua became non-residential ambassador for San Marino to the Republic of Montenegro.
How did the Malaysian manage to secure such a top-notch posting?
A trial in San Marino revealed the details.
In click here, Phua was planning to renovate a hotel and casino in San Marino under the Aman Chain, to create a 7-star hospitality hub.
Meanwhile Clabi was founded in 2007 by former head of state for San Marino Claudio Podeschi and its director, a Slovenian woman called Biljana Baruca.
Less than two weeks later, Phua secured his ambassadorial post.
But Podeschi gave a different testimony, declaring that the money was for consulting for the Aman Resort in Venice, where Petros Stathis was an investor.
Neither Podeschi nor Baruca could show any evidence for this consultancy work.
A second trial on corruption has been postponed until April 2019.
This looks into the case of passports in exchange for bribes.
His official Montenegrin address was in the Villa Miločer, a former royal summer residence, which is part of the Sveti Stefan resort that includes the picturesque peninsular.
In July 2014, tennis champion Novak Đoković married his sweetheart Jelena Ristić on the islet, and in the 1960s and 1970s, Orson Welles and Elizabeth Taylor visited the site, which was a rarity in Communism as a playground for celebrities.
Back in 2013, Phua's team was preparing to take control of the landmark.
By October 2016, David Ngie appeared as a board member of Adriatic Properties.
This strongly suggests that Phua himself - and his close associates - have been in control of one of the most precious symbols of Montenegro's heritage.
Neither Phua nor Ngie would respond to questions to confirm or deny this stewardship.
Further emails revealed the closeness between Phua's network and the Montenegrin Government.
The Prime Minister of Montenegro at the time was Milo Đukanović, who is.
Diplomatic immunity saved Đukanović from an arrest warrant and prosecution in Italy, and this scandal has been no impediment to his attending the NATO summit in Brussels this year, alongside Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.
However this 'secret meeting' seems to be a sensitive issue for the Montenegrin government, as it did not clarify requests by EIC's collaborator Vijesti for travel records for the 19 March, which should be publicly available.
The government stated that Đukanović led a government session on 19 March, and that he appeared on 22 March in Brussels.
Flight records of the Prime Minister were not provided by the government, so from the evening of 19 March until the daytime of 22 March his whereabouts are not clear.
Đukanović and Phua did not respond to requests for comment.
Picked up and put on parade for online betting in China - Phua believed to be on the right Picture courtesy of Four Corners, ABC TV Australia The World Cup in Brazil was taking place from 12 June to 13 July 2014, and was a major target for illegal gambling.
Whenever the tournament is played, Interpol-backed police teams across Macao, Hong Kong and China bust illegal betting operators taking bets.
Phua was part of an association of 21 who were arrested, and paraded twin river casino legal age front of the TV with black bags over their heads.
Phua posted bail, was released and fled the country.
But FBI transcripts suggest he bribed his way to freedom.
When approached to clarify this issue, Stathis would not answer.
In three villas which all contained the formation '888' at Caesars Palace Hotel, Phua and his associates set up monitors and computer stations, showing the largest Asian betting sites, SBO Bet and IBC Bet, and large TV screens tuned to click at this page World Cup.
S law as these operators had no license on American soil.
Also arrested was Phua associate Richard Yong.
On 14 July 2014, in an initial appearance of the defendants at a Las Vegas Court prosecuting attorney Kimberly Frayn stated that, from the evidence, Phua owns and operates offshore gaming website IBC, where his associates were signed in, gaming and checking on their wins.
But crime city underground casino ltb next year, the case collapsed.
Before the FBI raided the Caesars Palace villas in July 2014, officers shut down the Internet.
Posing as Internet repairmen, they entered the rooms and gathered evidence.
This was seen as a violation of privacy, and, on 1 June 2015, a judge go here conspiracy and illegal gambling charges against Phua.
The Malaysian boss never stood trial, received back his bail money, private plane and passport, and skipped the country.
But the purchase of the luxury Maestral Hotel happened in suspicious circumstances.
The owner of IBC Bet is Firstright Developments.
In July 2015, Hotel Maestral was sold to a Montenegrin company Monte Rock.
Phua is also an investor in the hotel.
Paul Phua-linked companies Firstright Developments Limited, and Noble Power Group Limited appear in annual accounts of related parties to Universal Capital Bank 2015 Therefore Stathis, who owned the bank, was appearing to use a massive cash injection from two companies connected to Phua's network, to lend to Monte Rock, a company he also owned.
The concern here is that money from Phua-related companies is being shifted into Stathis's private bank to finance a loan to buy the Maestral Check this out />Why is such a circuitous route needed?
One technique of money laundering is for a beneficiary to deposit in a bank a large amount of money, and for the bank to use this money in the possession of the beneficiary.
An expert from one of Europe's anti-money-laundering authorities, who wishes to remain anonymous and who reviewed this Maestral acquisition scheme, and the timeframe of the deposits and the loan at UCB, confirmed there is a suspicion of money laundering in this case.
Meanwhile the ICSS has also suspected the bank of being at the centre of money laundering.
When EIC Network approached Stathis, he would not answer questions directly, but denied emphatically any such allegations.
This is also refuted by authorities in Montenegro.
There is also a curious relationship between Montenegro and Maxbet.
As a reminder, this site was formally known as IBC Bet, which is mentioned as being owned by Phua in the FBI investigation.
Maxbet is registered as an online gambling company in the Philippines, and has been owned by Firstright Developments, the same company that owned IBC Bet.
Approached by EIC, Maxbet will not give details on who owns the site, or on Firstright Developments, and only told us that Phua has never held an interest in Maxbet.
Access to our service is blocked in Europe to avoid any legal issues and because our clients do not live there.
The Montenegro government has issued an online gambling license and concession to Montenegrin company E-Gambling Montenegro, which operates the brokerage firm BET-IBC.
This is, obviously, the name of IBC-BET in reverse.
BET-IBC only requires users of Maxbet to state they are not residents of the U.
And who is behind this website?
E-Gambling Montenegro was founded in 2011 by Milovan Maksimović, cousin of Milo Đukanović, the most influential politician in Crime city underground casino ltb, and the current President.
E-Gambling was owned by Royale Online Limited and Merig International, a Seychelles company https://chicago-lawyer.info/casino/casino-network-architecture.html at the same address as BET-IBC's owner, Link International, in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
Maksimović has denied to Montenegrin news site Vijesti any involvement crime city underground casino ltb online gambling and with E-Gambling Montenegro, although official documents prove the contrary.
Since 2016, when BET-IBC arrived in Montenegro, his company has exited E-Gambling Montenegro, which is now solely owned by its Seychelles partner.
But does Phua himself also own BET-IBC?
When asked, the operator of the website, Crime city underground casino ltb, would not respond.
However, in another twist, E-Gambling Montenegro lost its license in July 2017 after an official inspection in 2015 revealed that the company illegally gave away its own licenses to many online betting sites.
This hasn't stopped the site from continuing to advertise its official Montenegrin credentials to customers.
But exactly how illegal is an online betting company which advertises its services in countries where it does not hold a license, and are the authorities doing anything about it?
The problem is that there is no international push to prosecute such websites, so each country must regulate whether or not its citizens can access the site.
For this, we can take the example of Greece.
This year BET-IBC appeared on a Greek blacklist of online betting operators by the Greek government's gaming commission.
This means Greek Internet Service Providers ISPs must block access to the site on Greek territory, and Greek credit institutions must block transactions to the site.
BET-IBC tells its customers it can overcome restrictions in Greece to one of its partners, website SBO-BET, by using a Virtual Private Network VPN to bypass the Greek ISPs.
But if Greek customers use a VPN, Reggas added that this made no difference.
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