Taiwan Indicts Billionaire Accused of Running Vast Illegal Online Gambling Empire

Taiwanese authorities have indicted the billionaire chairman of Taichung-based company Xinliwang International Holdings on charges of illegal gambling and money laundering.

Chuang Chou-wen
Chuang Chou-wen
An image purported to show the arrest of Taiwanese billionaire Chuang Chou-wen (front center). (Image: CNA)

Chuang Chou-wen and 31 of his employees are accused of operating a vast online gambling empire. It comprises 532 online gambling sites and 54 online gambling system providers, largely serving gamblers on the Chinese mainland.

According to the indictment, Chuang’s Xinliwang Group owns a total of 12 companies that jointly operated a platform called “GPK Bet” since 2014. In that time, the operation processed at least US$4.43 billion in bets, yielding profits of more than US$2.13 billion, prosecutors said.

Much of the money was moved through a network of 843 dummy accounts in China, while underground banks were used to transfer batches of profits back to Taiwan. Chuang is also charged with evading nearly US$10 million in taxes.

Fugitive Billionaire

When, in August 2020, investigators followed the money trail to the Xinliwang Group and raided the company’s headquarters, Chuang fled.

Acting on a tipoff, Tawain’s Central Investigation Bureau traced the 50-year-old billionaire to a safe house in Changhua City, just to the south of Taichung.

Prosecutors subsequently seized all assets found under Chuang’s name to prevent him from liquidating any criminal proceeds prior to his trial. These included 41 properties, 13 luxury cars, and US$43 million in New Taiwan dollars.

Chuang previously gained media attention in Taiwan for buying a private jet, a Gulfstream G650ER, for approximately US$11 million. Understandably considered a flight risk, he has been detained since his arrest in November 2020.

Royal Titles

On the Xinliwang Group’s website, Chuang is listed as the company’s chairman and CEO, and is described as a “businessman, investor, philanthropist, engineer, and technology entrepreneur.” He is also a “certified international investment analyst” with three PhDs.

Those investments abroad seem to have paid off. Additionally, the site claims he holds the title of “Raja of Ubud Royal Palace in Indonesia,” as well as “Okhna,” the highest honorary title that can be bestowed on a civilian by the King of Cambodia. He is also “Tan Sri,” a title conferred by the King of Malaysia.

Xinliwang Group’s business “mainly focuses on cities with great development potential,” according to the website. “Through various investment cooperation opportunities, it develops large-scale real estate projects including residential, hotel, retail and commercial properties.”

The Xinliwang Group has previously released a statement declaring Chuang’s innocence.

Despite their stark political differences, there is one point that mainland China and Taiwan agree on: gambling is strictly prohibited.

Beijing has in recent years redoubled its efforts to crack down on cross-border gambling operators targeting Chinese citizens. But The China Post has reported that law enforcement agencies from the People’s Republic and Taiwan have been cooperating in the fight against illegal gambling since 2013.

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