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Chinese businessman, Paul Phua (cover image) has come out publicly for the first time, to deny all allegations of having any dealings with the Chinese 14K Triad or having indulged in illegal activities. Phua was arrested by the FBI at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas in 2014, during the World Cup and had subsequently been bailed out by ‘good friend’ Phil Ivey. The FBI had raided the villa occupied by Phua and his accomplices and seized computers and other equipment, accusing him of running an illegal sports betting operation. The case finally fell apart in June 2015, after the Court found the FBI undercover operation to have violated Phua’s Fourth Amendment Rights and he was freed.
Phua had kept a low profile since then, but finally spoke out in a recent interview to PokerNews.com, hoping to “lay to rest” the allegations that have been the fall-out of the arrest.
“I am not what the media alleges me to be: A Triad and all that bullshit,” Phua has stated in the detailed interview.
Eager to clear his name, he has firmly denied any association with the 14K Triad and says, “The truth is that I was not guilty of the crimes they charged me with, and I’m not a 14k Triad, and that’s why I stayed on to fight the case at the risk of jail time.”
He adds that the gambling operation found by the FBI was running in an adjoining villa and he had nothing to do with it. Phua says that the FBI had based their claims on a Malaysian police report about some Triad member, which had nothing to do with him at all.
After his release, Phua even hired an independent Hong Kong investigations firm Hill & Associates to investigate links between him and the 14k Triads. The reports were all negative.
Phua goes on to emphasize his modest beginnings and states, “When I was really young we didn’t even have a TV so I had to go to my neighbor’s house and watch from the window. I would bet with some of my friends, 20 cents or 30 cents, during our school days. From there on I would read a lot of the newspaper reports and I became very interested in how they create the lines, so I became good at that. And coming from a community of Chinese immigrants in Malaysia, the mentality and the culture, family and gambling is interconnected. We would all get together for card games and Mah Jong, and every big sporting event, everyone liked to pick a team to support.”
He reveals that he started his career as a junket operator and expanded his business when casinos were established in Macau. “I became interested in horse racing, too. Being young, I was not mature enough and I was a constant gambler. I was attracted to the casinos and from there I met more and more people, high rollers, and eventually, I started my own casino junket business.”
Phua also denies his involvement in the infamous 1997 Floodlights affair, where the stadium lights had been found to have been sabotaged in the match between two English Premier League games, West Ham vs. Crystal Palace and Arsenal vs. Wimbledon.
Phua goes on to state that, “I don’t mind playing in a game with all pros to pass the time, to learn, to improve myself. Poker is the kind of game where you can never stop improving. Every session you learn new things and that’s why we invite pros over for the game.”
Talking about himself and his associates he says, “Basically, we are a bunch of fun-loving people who are involved in the gambling industry. The gambling industry has some people with bad reputations. But I think in every aspect of life there are good and bad people.
Upset about all the allegations, Phua says, “People in the junket business and poker, they know the truth. But outside, people just know from media reports and online news portals and I think that’s unfair. After much consideration, I decided to do this interview, to clear up what’s not true in media reports and online portals.’
He continues, “I consider myself a professional gambler. The difference between me and other gamblers is that I’m a high risk taker. I’m willing to gamble big in a Baccarat session for high stakes. The biggest all over the world. I make my money from gambling, but I also give some back to the casinos. A lot actually. But we get the services and high-roller treatment that the casinos offer.”
“I am also a poker player, and yes, I love the game. For the past seven or eight years my life has been all about poker. For the first four years I did not even go on holiday with my family. So it has come at a cost, as I’ve spent a lot of time at the tables. Anything else the FBI or the media has said about me is simply ridiculous and baseless,” Phua concludes.