Gambling czar and poker phenomena Paul Phua has given an exclusive interview to PokerNews which he denies being a leading figure in the 14K Triad and dismisses accusations that he is a match fixer and the world’s biggest bookmaker.
It was a big shock for the successful Phua when within several days he found himself wrapped up in separate criminal investigations in two different countries. First he was arrested in Macau, where authorities were watching a group of junket operators alleged to be running an illegal sports betting operation. Phua told PokerNews he is only loosely associated with anyone in the group, but the damage was done and he was booked.
Then, fresh out of jail, he went back to Las Vegas to play some poker and bet on the World Cup 2014. However, he was interrupted when FBI agents raided his villa at Caesars Palace and charged him with running an illegal gambling operation and labeled him a leading member of the 14K Triad gang.
Overnight, he underwent a transformation in the media: From gambling giant and poker star to notorious Triad mobster.
The public smear campaign hurt Phua, he told PokerNews.com. “Now it has gotten to a point where all this bad publicity affects my life, my family's, my associates', and my friends' lives in a certain way. People don't want to be linked to a Triad. This interview is also partly to put that allegation to rest, because our business was affected. High management people don't want to be linked to the Triads. Loans were recalled by banks and our business partners were very worried. It affects the business,” he said.
“The truth is that I have not been involved in the sports betting industry for a long time,” he said. “I'm just an investor, I'm a gambler, and I'm a risk taker, but I'm not an operator. I have invested in a lot of businesses, including online gambling businesses, in the past. But for the past seven or eight years, for me, it has been all about poker, family, and lot of real estate property investments.”
Though almost all of the individuals arrested with Phua in Las Vegas pleaded guilty, Phua decided to take on the U.S. prosecutors. He claimed he was innocent and with support from poker stars Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan prepared his defense while living in Las Vegas under house arrest.
The preparation was a success. A judge ruled the FBI’s search of Phua’s villa unconstitutional and the government withdrew all charges against Phua.
For many in the media, Gangsters Inc. included, Phua continued to be viewed as a Triad gangster. Why would the FBI lie about such a thing? According to Phua and his lawyer, Tom Goldstein, “pretrial discovery showed the FBI came up with the allegation based solely on a single reference from a police officer overseas, who was actually reporting on someone else entirely. Then when the FBI followed up, they discovered nothing more to substantiate the claim.”
Phua: “It's just a random police report. It's just an officer in another country telling the FBI he saw me with a Triad, so suddenly I am a Triad? I think they just wanted to try to criminalize me, but we managed to prove it was all false allegations.”
You can read the entire interview with Phua at PokerNews.
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