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On 14 July , the sky above a bay on the Adriatic Coast was struck with searchlights, fireworks and flashing strobes bursting from an outdoor stage.
Hundreds were gathering on a balmy summer evening for a night of bombast and opulence. With rooms and 18 suites, the hotel was set to become a haven for gambling and a magnet for poker enthusiasts, with slot machines, roulette, gaming tables and VIP tournaments.
Such lavish praise was accompanied by a ribbon-cutting ceremony, where Markovic stood alongside one of the major investors, the year old Malaysian Paul Phua.
Phua is a multi-millionaire bookmaker who was convicted for running an illegal betting scheme in Malaysia during the European Football Championships in , and arrested in both Macau and Las Vegas for similar operations in the World Cup in 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. 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 , 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 local police cut the Internet wire outside a condominium, where an illegal betting ring was taking bets on the game.
Panic erupted inside. 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 anticipating winning bets.
But the cops said a deal could be made only after he confessed. Phua blurted out the truth, a trial found him guilty, he received a fine, and left the country to Vietnam, stated the newspaper Malaysiakini.
The cops were informed later by their overseas colleagues that Phua was a member of the 14K Triad. 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 these are broken. Based in Hong Kong and operational since around , 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, rhino horn, tigers and whale meat.
And they soon expanded their activities to Macao, which was under Portuguese control until it returned to China in But in the last 30 years, the 14K has adapted to the modern business environment, and operates as a network exchanging favours.
After the handover in , China encouraged the gaming industry to expand, stimulate tourism and grow the economy, and western companies were quick to exploit this opportunity.
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 mids. 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. The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority allowed the First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation to license and regulate gambling operators from its namesake northern province.
Therefore betting sites could open and be registered on its territory for a few dozen thousand dollars, and offer online betting internationally.
Back in , IBC Bet claimed to be the number one betting website in the world, running over 6, live matches and processing billions of dollars every month, with the best odds and the highest limits.
In , Phua was named as the operator of this betting site in a U. S court. 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.
Whereas some bookies were able to maintain their clientele, others needed more capital to invest in the new internet-dominated world.
This money spurred his rise in the international bookmaking world. He had numerous contacts across Asia. Yong helped Phua expand his company into Vietnam and then the Philippines.
Phua is the majority owner at 70 percent. Note: Want to upgrade your poker skills? Get our free preflop charts and start playing like a pro before the flop.
Download now! Investors recouped their initial investments quickly thanks to Phua. He directed his VIP gamblers to the new casinos—for a price, of course.
This new enterprise ran junkets transporting mainland Chinese high rollers to Macau and extending them credit.
Phua was smack dab in the middle of it all, watching his wealth and reputation balloon. This group is responsible for large-scale heroin and opium trafficking, illegal gambling, arms and human trafficking, prostitution, loan sharking, money laundering, and murder.
Baccarat has long been highly popular in Asia. After all, it is a game of luck—something in which the Chinese have considerable faith.
Poker, on the other hand, is a game of strategy and skill. Hall suggested that Phua and Yong leave baccarat and try poker.
The gentlemen proved to be quick studies, and Phua credits his business savvy and patience with his impressive poker success.
Following Black Friday and the collapse of US online poker, many online players transitioned to live games. Consequently, Las Vegas saw its market decrease as people began to look for other countries in which to play poker.
Phua is close personal friends with many of these stars who often give interviews on his YouTube channel. He has the closest relationship with Tom Dwan.
Phua and his son Darren Wai Kit Phua both play poker. He currently resides in Macau. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Malaysian Chinese businessman and poker player.
Retrieved The Star Online.