I spoke to a number of Malaysian policemen, gamblers and bookmakers who told me about the staged raids that go on. One told me: “Occasionally the bookies will give the police a gambling house to raid. Just for show: keep the system turning. Not make anyone look too bad.”
Asia is not alone in this type of shadow puppetry. To get some perspective on organised crime and illegal gambling, I contacted Joe Pistone. Pistone is one of the heroes of the North American anti-mafia fight.
For six years, he worked as an undercover agent using the name Donnie Brasco and managed to infiltrate one of the five big New York crime families - the Bonannos. We spoke about his experiences when he was running an illegal bookmaking operation.
“We were paying off police officers, sure. Look, gambling doesn’t exist without pay-offs,” he said.
“It’s not something that you can hide. Because you have to go somewhere to place your bets, and the bookie has to be somewhere. You know, he’s got to be hanging out on a corner or in a bar or a restaurant.”
I began to tell him about the Asian police sometimes making staged raids on gambling houses, but he stopped me before I could finish.
“Right, and they make a bust. I mean, that happens here in the States too,” he told me.
**"They make a bust and they arrest some nobodies, so it looks like they’re doing something. That’s the old game, that’s not something new. . . . It keeps the newspapers happy, it keeps the people happy, the citizens happy, that the police are doing something.
“Somebody gets arrested. You know, somebody of no consequence. And they make sure that there’s not that much money there at the time. That game’s been around forever.”**