Nepal: TikTok emerges as online gambling platform, police begin crackdown and arrest four

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The Chinese app TikTok, which is owned by tech giant ByteDance, is used by a group of people to engage in gambling in Nepal. The group is reported to be operating live gambling dens on the platform.

The majority of gamblers, according to police officials, use fake IDs and phone numbers, making it challenging for them to identify them. Despite that the police have arrested some people engaging in such unlawful activities.

According to the authorities, since it is now simpler to obtain new phone numbers, these individuals frequently change their numbers or discard some after using them for illegal purposes. Another difficulty is the absence of defined laws to address cybercrime in the country.

Four individuals from various locations who were involved in organizing gambling via TikTok live were apprehended between January 10 and January 17 by the Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Office, Minbhawan. According to the police, they were using digital wallets for transactions totaling more than Nepalese Rs 5 million.

Rishi Prakash Yogi alias Pugg and Pubg2 on TikTok were arrested from Gwarko in Lalitpur for conducting card games. According to police reports, Yogi played the game live with various players over the course of 10 days, transacting Nepalese Rs 2.8 million through the e-Sewa mobile wallet.

Kapil Giri, another gambler working as Pler King on TikTok, also organized online gambling and is found to have collected around Nepalese Rs 1 million in 10 days.

Other two identified are Prem Kathyat and Harischandra Malla. Kathyat collected around Nepalese Rs 93,214 in six days and Malla collected more than Nepalese Rs 8,53,331 using two e-Sewa accounts in the last fortnight.

The Superintendent of Police (SP) Krishna Prasad Koirala and spokesman for Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Office (KVCIO) said, “These are among the first cases of police nabbing gamblers on TikTok, but there is no proper cyber law to punish them,” as quoted by The Kathmandu Post.

After the names of the gamblers were revealed the police received several phone calls claiming similar activities were going on live on TikTok. Koirala said, “It seems that the gamblers have found TikTok live the best option, as many people use the app in Nepal.”

Koirala explains that persons in charge of running the gambling activity first invite users as guests on the app, collect money via mobile wallet apps, and then conduct the game live online. They primarily engage in three-card Faras, also referred to as open Faras.

Start.io, a mobile data platform, estimates that there are 2.2 million active TikTok users in Nepal. However, activists and digital rights organizations place that figure far higher.

Internet freedom advocate and president of Digital Rights Nepal, Santosh Sigdel, said, “Just like the so-called online gambling, many cyber offenses are not explicitly regulated in Nepal. This is a serious issue.”

“It’s high time that we expedite the legislative process to enact information technology and cyber offense laws in line with international cyber laws, as well as human rights and criminal justice principles,” Sigdel added.

Earlier this month, Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) also issued a notice to ISPs to block websites promoting online betting, gambling and virtual currencies. The notice by NTA also warned ISPs of legal actions for not following the orders.

With numerous reports and cases coming to light on TikTok gamblers, the NTA might take actions on the matter soon, as even the first official franchise cricket T20 League was under scrutiny after several players reported of match-fixing proposals.

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