Paul Phua Named by Australian Newsmag as Possible Tennis Match-Fixer

Australian news magazine Four Corners, part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, has named international black-market gambling bigwig Wei Seng “Paul” Phua as a possible person of interest in connection with ongoing allegations of match-fixing in professional tennis.  A recent report by Four Corners asserts that Phua “has been identified by state and federal law enforcement as a potential threat to the integrity of sport across [Australia].”

Paul Phua demonstrates his poker chops at an EPT final table.

Paul Phua at the poker table. (Photo courtesy Neil Stoddart / EPT.)

The print version of the Four Corners report also highlights Phua’s ongoing cozy relationship with Melbourne’s Crown Casino, where, coincidentally, the Aussie Millions [poker] main event has just concluded.  Referring to Phua as a “highly valued client of Crown Casino,” the Four Corners report asserted that Phua (and likely his entourage as well) have been flown to Melbourne on a Crown-owned private jet in recent weeks.

Phua, of course, has been identified as one of the primary owners of the Asia-facing, black-market bookmaking site IBCbet, which changed its name to MAXbet last year.  But Phua is also one of the Pacific Rim’s largest junketeers, a select group of unofficial gambling-world kingpins who specialize in bringing planes full of wealthy gamblers to various casino venues throughout that part of the world.

It’s in respect to Phua’s position as one of the region’s most powerful junketeers — not to mention his own reputation as a gambling whale — that drives Crown and other casinos to cater to Phua in this way, though Phua has by this point regained ownership of his own Gulfstream jet, valued at $40 million or so, that was ceased by American authorities back in 2014.

In addition to the vague match-fixing allegations being tossed Phua’s way in the Four Corners report, there are also several references to Phua’s celebrated legal battle with the US, dating back to that 2014 arrest.  Phua and several others were accused of running a “wire room” betting operation from private villas at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and only Phua, of all the defendants, was able to beat the rap.  That came about only through te purchase of the best, priciest legal defense in Nevada, plus the fact that investigators screwed up in several ways in their haste to put together a case against Phua, who remains on the watch list of several countries.

But it’s in connection with the recent allegations of match-fixing in tennis that the Four Corners story is simultaneous at its most interesting and weakest.  Following the recent revelations that pro tennis is rife with corruption and rigged matches, particularly at secondary pro stops and often involving players from developing countries, the recent Australian Open had to deal with some controversy, after leading online book Pinnacle halted betting action on an early mixed-doubles match between Czech Republic’s Andrea Hlavackova and Poland’s Lukasz Kubot versus Spain’s David Marrero and Lara Arruabarrena.

This match went 6-3, 6-0 in favor of Hlavackova-Kubot, and that’s after extensive money came in backing the pair on many sites, including Pinnacle.  And while one other bookmaker claimed that Pinnacle halting action on the match was a publicity stunt, it turned out that no less than 20 online books suspended betting on the match, citing suspicious action.  Post-match reports from the losing Marrero-Arruabarrena side claimed that Marrero suffered a knee injury, but reports have also since surfaced — including this separate one from Four Corners — that Marrero is on a secret blacklist of pro tennis players, as maintained by a consortium of bookmakers, who is believed to throw matches on occasion.

That stuff all has to be proven, and there’s going to be a lot more on tennis’s shady side in the coming months.  But where does Paul Phua figure into it?

Well, that’s the problem.  Despite the healthy intermingling of Paul Phua’s association with underground gambling and match-fixing, plus all the tennis stuff in the same story, no link is ever made between the two.  Perhaps that’s coming in one of several Four Corners reports that appear to be in the works.  It’s not like it’s unlikely, after all; Phua has long been recognized as the probable match-fixer between the infamous “Floodlights Affair,” which corrupted two late-’90s English Premier League matches.  The illicit profits from that criminal operation are widely alleged to be the financial fuel that took Phua to the top of the junketeering world as well.

Despite hi poker-world connections, the global spotlight continues to shine ever more harshly on Phua.  Whether or not he actually is a “high-ranking member of the 14K Triad (Asian organized crime group), as claimed by the FBI when Phua was arrested in 2014, isn’t even the point.  What is relevant is that all the evidence continue to indicate that he’s a global corrupter of sports.  In other words, not a good guy, and certainly not the the type of person that’s going to bring any sort or reputability to the poker or gambling world, no matter how badly some casinos might want his gambling action.

Will Phua ever be directly linked to the global tennis match-fixing scandal?  So far, that hasn’t happened, and it’s the gaping whole amid what the Aussie newsmag has published to date.  One way or another, though, more of this tale is certain to emerge.

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