The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific has published a report revealing that underground banking and money laundering in East and Southeast Asia are now heavily reliant on casinos, junkets, and cryptocurrency.
The study highlights a significant rise in illegal online casinos, e-junkets, and cryptocurrency exchanges in recent years, coinciding with a surge in cross-border criminal activity.
According to the report, major organized crime groups have been utilizing online casinos and related businesses as a means to transfer and launder substantial amounts of both government-backed fiat currency and cryptocurrencies.
Furthermore, the report examines cases in which illegal online casino operators have expanded their operations to include cyberfraud and cryptocurrency laundering.
In order to tackle this issue, the report offers recommendations to enhance knowledge, awareness, policy, capacity, and coordination among governments.
Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, commented on the situation, stating that while casinos and high-cash-volume businesses have long been utilized for underground banking and money laundering, the proliferation of unregulated online gambling platforms and crypto exchanges has drastically changed the landscape.
He also noted that the expansion of the illicit economy has necessitated a technological revolution in underground banking, facilitating faster anonymous transactions, mingling of funds, and opening new opportunities for organized crime. This development, particularly in the Mekong region and Southeast Asia as a whole, has been accelerated by the advent of scalable, digitized casino and crypto-based solutions.