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FILE - Residents place money during an illegal gambling activity at a village outside Hanoi, Feb. 12, 2014. Vietnam has been loosening rules on domestic gambling but lucrative, illegal operations have spurred a crackdown.

Police in Vietnam broke up an online gambling ring that had handled more than $1 billion in bets and arrested 22 people, reports said Saturday, in what is believed to be the largest-ever internet betting operation in the communist country.

Most forms of gambling are illegal for locals in Vietnam, but black market betting flourishes, especially on sports.

Massive raids in cities and provinces across the country this week came after the discovery of hundreds of thousands of accounts tied to a ring processing an estimated $1.28 billion in funds, state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said.

Sophisticated operation

The gambling ring was operating in a “sophisticated manner that had been so difficult to detect,” the report said, citing police sources.

It explained that gamblers who visited the website were asked to deposit cash into banks in exchange for virtual money in coded accounts, mostly for football betting.

The accused hid the scope of the funds by using bank accounts with small amounts of money to conduct transactions.

So far a total of 22 people have been arrested including 12 organizers, police said.

Authorities declined to comment when asked for additional details.

Loosening rules

The one-party state has started loosening its rules on domestic gambling, allowing Vietnamese to bet in casinos on a trial basis and opening up some sports betting.

But lucrative illegal operations have mushroomed, prompting a crackdown.

Last year, 91 people — several of them high-ranking police officials — were either jailed or ordered to pay fines for their links with a gambling ring that handled $420 million in wagers.

Among those imprisoned was a former head of the “high-technology department” in charge of policing online gambling at the powerful Ministry of Public Security.

Investigations from that case are ongoing.

A former chief inspector at the Ministry of Information and Communication was arrested in Hanoi on Thursday for failing to spot illicit activity in the $420 million ring.

The communist party headed by conservative leader Nguyen Phu Trong has carried out an unprecedented anti-graft campaign nationwide.

Dozens of executives alongside former and current officials have been jailed while harassment of activists has mounted.

Remains of two people dumped in a shallow grave in Cross Level Siding by the Fifth Brigade were exhumed on Sunday

The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) on Sunday exhumed remains of two people who were killed by the Fifth Brigade in 1983 at Cross Level Railway Siding, Gwayi, Matabeleland North province.

The remains of Thembi Ngwenya Tshuma, who was butchered by members of the brigade while she was a few months pregnant and her husband Justin, were removed from the shallow grave by a team of experts from Kuthula Trust.

Justin Tshuma was shot dead before his wife’s throat was slit by Gukurahundi soldiers.

The exhumation of such remains is part of a state-sanctioned program to settle Fifth Brigade atrocities of the 1980s perpetrated by the North Korean-trained Gukurahundi, a militia that was aligned to the ruling party then led by President Robert Mugabe.

Justin Tshuma’s brother, Amon Joseph Tshuma, said, "I’m happy that this has been done and I believe that these two needed to be laid to rest in a proper way instead of what happened to them after they were killed by the notorious brigade.”

Both the NRP and Kuthula Trust are expected to conduct similar exhumations in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces where the Fifth Brigade was deployed to suppress an insurrection led by some disgruntled former ZIPRA combatants.

Gukurahundi killed an estimated 20,000 people in the two regions. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been accused of taking part in the killings, has urged Zimbabweans to talk openly about Gukurahundi and rebury remains of their loved ones dumped in shallow mass graves.

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