A gambling operation based in a temple was discovered by police in Kaohsiung, who arrested three suspects and seized a large amount of cash along with endorsed checks suspected to be wagers on the results of next week’s elections’ results, authorities said.
The Criminal Investigation Division of the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office said officers received tip-offs in the past few weeks about a major underground gambling operation, said to be one of the largest in southern Taiwan.
With search warrants issued by prosecutors, police at the temple arrested three men allegedly running a gambling operation, including the temple master, surnamed Tsai (蔡).
Kaohsiung prosecutor Lin Yung-fu (林永富) said NT$22 million (US$657,640) in payable endorsed checks and NT$2.07 million in cash were seized.
The temple is well-known among locals for running underground pools for betting on lottery numbers, prosecutors said, adding that reports indicated Tsai and other temple personnel were accepting bets on the outcome of the presidential and legislative elections.
Lin said that officers seized documents and information sheets that contained detailed records of poll results from all Kaohsiung districts starting from 1998, including election outcomes for city councilors, as well as for past presidential, mayoral and legislative votes.
Investigators said Tsai and others had analyzed past elections to provide odds for wagers on next week’s elections and made the information available for punters to entice them to place large wagers.
Prosecutors said such gambling operations are illegal because they can influence people’s voting behavior.
Police also found a grenade at the temple during the search and were looking for other illegal firearms and ammunition.
After questioning overnight, the 50-year-old Tsai was released yesterday after posting bail of NT$300,000, while the other two suspects were released on bail of NT$150,000 and NT$50,000 respectively.
Judiciary officials said illicit gambling pools for betting on elections can manipulate voting, with a candidate who has financial clout possibly able win by providing good odds for them to be elected.
That would encourage people who bet on a candidate to pull in votes from their families and friends, officials said.
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