Koror, Palau — The Palau Judiciary, Court of Common Pleas, convicted 57 Chinese nationals for the crime of promoting gambling in the second degree. These individuals from the People’s Republic of China were arrested as a result of an online gambling raid conducted through a law enforcement cooperative effort between the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), the Anti-Human Trafficking Office, and the Foreign Investment Board at the Harvest Hotel earlier this year. Our collaboration proved fruitful as we were able to seize hundreds of pieces of online gambling equipment including over 64 laptop computers, 70+ SIM cards, 160+ credit-debit cards, 170 cell phones, 500+ tokens, and cash.
The OSP charged 60 detainees from the seizure with Working Without a Permit and Promotion of Gambling in the Second Degree. Unlicensed gambling operation is a crime in both the Republic of Palau and the People’s Republic of China. The defendants, who were in Palau on tourist visas, conducted an unlicensed online gambling operation from the Harvest Hotel. From hotel rooms converted into offices for online gambling, they promoted illegal gambling through the use of high-speed internet with cell phones, sim cards, laptop computers, credit-debit cards, and Chinese bank-issued tokens used for high-level encryption of sensitive banking data.
The Honorable Honora Remengesau Rudimch issued warrants for the 60 charged individuals on July 28 and 29, 2020. The Narcotics Enforcement Agency (NEA), with assistance from the OSP, arrested and transported 58 of the defendants to the Court of Common Pleas. One of the detainees is a juvenile whose case will be taken up next week. Two other detainees were not yet apprehended and have outstanding warrants for their arrests. The remaining 57 defendants, through their attorney and with the help of a translator, entered pleas of guilty as charged. Senior Judge Rudimch accepted the guilty pleas from the defendants following a thorough
examination of each defendant as to their rights, their understanding of the charges against them, and their acceptance of the terms of their voluntary pleas.
Under the negotiated agreement accepted by the Court, the defendants were adjudicated guilty on both charges, i.e., working without a permit and promoting gambling in the second degree, fined $100 each, agreed to forfeit all items utilized in the online gambling operation, received credit for their day of arrest, and agreed to leave the Republic on the next available flight or within the next two months, whichever comes first. Personal items seized during the raid will be returned upon proof such items were not used in the Harvest Hotel criminal gambling operation.
Defendants’ illegal online gambling operation is estimated to have handled millions of dollars without a license and without paying taxes. We hope this conviction discourages similar operations from using the Republic of Palau to engage or continue to engage in their illegal business