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Malaysian authorities arrest 27 influencers for promoting illegal gambling

Malaysian police have arrested 27 social media influencers for allegedly promoting illegal online gambling sites and other activities.

The group, consisting of 23 women and four men between the ages of 21 and 35, was arrested on June 13 in seven states, in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Johor, Perlis, Kedah and Penang.

A local report explained how the individuals were approached to support the betting activities on their social media platforms based on the number of their online fans. Mr Mohd Shuhauly of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Royal Malaysia Police said at a recent press conference: “Initial investigations revealed that gambling syndicates hired the suspects based on the number of their social media followers.”

He further explained how “Each influencer will receive between RM1,500 (US$430) and RM8,000 for each social media platform depending on the number of followers,” adding: “We believe that each influencer is active on more than two social media platforms.”

Gambling is heavily restricted in the predominantly Muslim Asian country with a population of almost 35 million, although some forms of betting such as lotteries, casino games and horse racing are legal and permitted. Online betting and sports betting (with bookmakers), on the other hand, are illegal.

Ongoing investigations and five more arrests

As part of the year-long investigation into this activity, 30 mobile phones have been seized while authorities continue to try to track down those responsible for the gambling syndicates, as confirmed by Mohd Shuhaily.

“We are investigating the influencers under the Open Gaming House Act and Section 233 of the Malaysia Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Act,” he explained.

In addition to advertising illegal gambling sites, the influencers made money by selling cosmetics and other products.

In a related case, four women and one man were arrested for allegedly promoting prostitution, pornography and unauthorized sexual stimulants.

Mr Mohd Shuhaily reported that “The group is led by a 27-year-old local woman named 'Miza Ozawa', who already has a criminal record for attacking her own mother.”

He explained that Ozawa, along with a 26-year-old Indonesian woman and a 20-year-old Indonesian man, appeared in the sexually explicit videos that were sold online, while two other Malaysian nationals were said to be responsible for producing the content.

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