Home Features The monster with a thousand faces

The monster with a thousand faces

By Lars

Asian betting brands are omnipresent in European football. In reality, most of them are owned by a handful of super-bookmakers, hiding their identities and huge cash flow.

By Philippe Auclair

New evidence unearthed by Josimar shows that the Asian betting partners of some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Real Madrid, Inter, Chelsea and others, are all linked to a single company, BOE United Technology Corp. The Asian bookmakers which finance elite European football are in fact interchangeable commercial identities used by a few illegal super-bookmakers, all of this with the complicity of some of world football’s most prestigious names.

It has long been suspected that the hundreds if not thousands of illegal betting brands which target the Asian market were not companies operating separately, but iterations of a handful of ‘whales’ which used multiple identities to better disguise who they were – and where the billions, tens, hundreds of them, went.  These brands did not compete against each other. Quite the opposite, they complemented each other. They were ultimately one and the same thing, a means to stay a step ahead in a cat-and-mouse game played with watchdogs and law enforcement agencies. As soon as one brand attracted too much attention from regulators, it could morph into another. All it took was a change of name and a data transfer, which was the affair of an instant, and could be planned long in advance, to be activated when required. The actual owners would remain in the shadows, unattainable and unknown.

Hiding In Plain View
What was missing was proof that these suspicions were founded. This is no longer the case. As Josimar has found, the behemoths were hiding in plain sight. All companies, even bookmakers operating on the fringes of legality, need some kind of legal protection, starting with legal protection of their brands. The best and simplest way to identify who the super operators were was to find out who owned the trademarks to these multiple brands. If these owners happened to be the same, it was proof that the brands were related.

And they are. 

All of the brands Josimar looked at were or are the property of just two companies, Tianyu Technology Inc and BOE United Technology Corp. Both are ‘accredited service suppliers’ registered by the Offshore Gaming Licensing Department of PAGCOR, the state-run Filipino gaming authority.

That these mother companies should be registered in the Philippines comes as no surprise. Manila is in some respects the capital city of the Asian-facing betting industry, due to its location (close enough to China for operators to send thousands of Mandarin speakers to work on their trading floors) and, until recently, to the regulatory laxness of the local authorities, as reported by Josimar in the past.

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Brands owned by Tianyu Technology Inc

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Brands owned by BOE United Technology Corp.

A lot of information can be gathered from these official data, which Josimar accessed through the portal of WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization. The agency was set up by the United Nations in 1970 to ‘promote and protect intellectual property’. 

Two things in particular demand closer attention: first, that all of Tianyu’s trademarks are shown as ‘ended’, despite the fact that the registration of some of them was only due to expire in 2028, 2030 or 2031. Second, that the ownership of some of these trademarks, namely Leyu (former partner of Chelsea FC, among others) and HTH (once partners of Leicester City and Manchester United) appear to have been transferred to BOE, the new mothership of all of those brands, Yabo excepted.

There is a good reason for this: In 2021 Yabo was the target of a huge police operation which Josimar has detailed here, leading to the identification of 80,000 agents of the illegal bookmaker and the arrests of over 4,000 of them in mainland China. Yabo, at one point the most visible of all Asian-facing betting platforms in the world, counted AS Monaco, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Serie A, the Argentinian FA and Paris Saint-Germain among its commercial partners, vanished from the scene. Its websites ceased to function – at least for a while. 

All of its partnerships were terminated. Yet Yabo continued to flourish, albeit in different guises. Other Tianyu brands like Leyu, who migrated to BOE in November 2021, and HTH, who did the same in March 2022, just carried on as usual. By 2023, BOE – Tianyu’s successor in all but name – could boast of a stable of gambling brands and partnerships which eclipsed even that of Tianyu, especially through their flagship brand, Kaiyun, also known as KY Sports. Strikingly, BOE’s name appeared in the list of PAGCOR-licensed operators for the first time in October 2021, when Tianyu retreated from the scene, as if the baton had been passed from one member of the relay team to the next.

Proof that BOE is not just the owner of a bunch of trademarks, but a real company actively engaged in establishing partnerships with football clubs can be found in the accounts filed by one of these partners, Inter, in October 2021. In this document, BOE is quoted as a ‘new’ ‘regional sponsor’, as shown below.

A fascinating aspect of Inter’s relationship with BOE is that the Italian club, which is contractually linked to BOE for a period of three years (2021-24) has been promoting not just one, but two BOE brands since the deal was signed: HTH to start with, then, since the beginning of the current season, Kaiyun. Each time, Inter published statements announcing a  ‘new’ deal with a ‘new’ partner, feeding the illusion that we were dealing with separate entities, when, in fact, there’d always and only been one.

It is worth naming Kaiyun’s current commercial partners in world football, to give an idea of the reach of their operation and of the financial resources at their disposal to organise a promotional blitz of such magnitude, all of which seems to have taken place after Yabo’s demise in 2021.. Alessandro Del Piero and Wayne Rooney, who shot a quite remarkable video of his endorsement, have been official ambassadors of the brand. The Argentinian FA, AC Milan, Aston Villa, Atlético de Madrid, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Chelsea FC, Fiorentina, Inter, Leicester City, Monaco and Real Madrid, who, represented by Emilio Butragueño and with Roberto Carlos in tow, took part in a sleek‘ signing ceremony’  at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium: all count Kaiyun as their official Asian betting partner. 

Real Madrid’s statement is of particular interest, as it states that the club ‘extended’ a previous contract with Kaiyun’s ‘mother company’, which indicates that the Merengues’ Asian betting partner until then, KOK Sports, is part of the same stable of companies.  Even more remarkably, the video shot at the Bernabeu to mark the completion of the deal between the Spanish club and KOK uses some of the same footage which appears in the Kaiyun video, whilst the backdrop to the actual signing is virtually identical in both films. KOK Sports also happens to have been a partner of Serie A’s Atalanta, now replaced, if that’s the word, by another BOE brand, Leyu. KOK Sports also uses a picture of Chelsea player Mason Mount to promote its brand – when Chelsea’s Asian betting partner is now Kaiyun. 

The cards can be shuffled as much as is possible, the pack never changes.

Yabo has since re-surfaced, though for different purposes. Many of its mirror websites – Asian-facing bookmakers typically have hundreds, if not thousands of them – instantly redirect customers to Kaiyun, as shown by the screenshot below, which makes good use of Kaiyun’s commercial relationship with Karim Benzema’s Real Madrid and Mason Mount’s Chelsea. Other mirror websites lead to another BOE brand, AYX. In the end, what does it matter? As they’re all the same.

Who Cares?
The brands themselves do not seem to pay too much attention to the evidence  showing that they are part of the same entity in the end. Neither do some of the clubs they are partners of.

Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, for example, announced their partnership deal with Yabo Sports on their website in August 2022; but it is not ‘Yabo Sports’ which is mentioned in their list of official partners: it is Kaiyun. When asked by Josimar why this was the case, a spokesperson for the German club responded: “Our contractual partner is an agency from the Asian market. In September 2022, all contractual rights were transferred from YABO to Kaiyun. Therewith, our current Asian betting partner is Kaiyun. From the German legal perspective, that deal has been checked and approved. Please understand that we will provide no further comments on this.”. 

Yabo on the left, Kaiyun on the right: to Bayer 04, they’re one and the same.

Some Kaiyun mirror websites even openly advertise for other BOE-owned brands, in this case OB and Leyu alongside their own.


It is also telling that clubs seamlessly move from one iteration of the brand to another. AS Monaco, who became one of Yabo’s first partners in Europe in December 2018, switched to sister company AYX in July 2021 and are now partnering Kaiyun. Manchester United moved from Yabo to HTH almost as soon as the former was caught in the massive police operation that appeared to bring it to its knees for a while. Atlético de Madrid, who teamed with AYX in February 2021, is now promoting both Leyu and Kaiyun, for which Alvaro Morata recorded a message of best wishes for the 2023 Chinese New Year. Another BOE brand, Yaxin, also proudly displays the badge of the Colchoneros on its website.

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Chelsea switched from Leyu to Kaiyun in 2022, whilst Leicester, a strong contender for the world record of the most betting partnerships in history, a kind of polyamorous gambling partner, have had successive or concurrent relationships with Yabo, HTH, OB Sports and Kaiyun. Leicester recently added a newcomer on the market to their portfolio: 6686, which is also a partner of Nottingham Forest, and of which hardly anything is known, except that they too have acquired a UK licence through White Label provider TGP Europe, more about whom later.

Silence In The Ranks
One thing has changed, though. Clubs, especially English ones, have become much more cagey about publicising their partnerships with Asian-facing betting partners, at least on their English language websites. Leicester City FC took part in the shooting of a lavish video to celebrate their new association with Kaiyun, in a  ‘signing ceremony’ which took place at the King Power stadium and was attended by club ‘legend’ Steve Walsh alongside the Foxes’ Head of Partnerships Harj Hir. This video appears nowhere on the club website. Similarly, whilst Leyu’s name used to feature in Chelsea’s official list of partners, there is no trace of Kaiyun in the current list – unless one accesses the Chinese version of chelseafc.com, in which case the following screen appears.

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Statements are no longer distributed to domestic media as used to be the case, unless the partnerships in question are so visible – either sleeve or front-of-shirt sponsorships – that some kind of public acknowledgement is unavoidable, as was the case for Aston Villa’s deals with OB Sports in August 2021 and Kaiyun one year later.

Not so incidentally, OB Sports, also known as OB Entertainment, is also an iteration of the same entity, as can be seen on the screenshot below.

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Why clubs, English clubs in particular, have become so shy about their commercial links to Tianyu- and BOE-owned Asian betting brands is easy to explain. To start with, the last couple of years have seen a much greater degree of scrutiny of this type of relationships in parts of the media. Many supporters are unhappy to see their club associated with such opaque, if not downright criminal companies: Norwich fans even managed to convince their board to put an end to their partnership with Asian bookmaker BK8. These clubs have also been bracing themselves for the publication of the British government’s long-expected Gambling Review, which is understood to impose much stricter regulation on so-called ‘White Label’ gambling operators such as BOE’s brands. 

What exactly lies in store is unknown. Perhaps a ban on front-of-shirt and sleeve sponsorship. Perhaps a ban on the LED advertising of gambling brands in football stadiums. A blanket ban does not seem to be on the table, despite a wealth of evidence directly linking Asian-facing bookmakers with organised crime, people-trafficking, money-laundering and worse. It is more likely that the recommendations of this review will be similar to what happened in Spain in the summer of 2021. 

The headlines then had all been about the ‘ban on gambling advertising’ imposed on La Liga clubs by the Spanish government. The reality was rather different. On one hand, it was true that the names of online betting platforms could no longer be displayed on club jerseys or in football stadiums; on the other, on the very first day of the 2021-22 season, the day the decree took effect, it was announced that Norwich’s ephemeral official sponsor BK8 had signed partnership deals with no fewer than five La Liga clubs. BK8 could then use their crests – and their players – in promotional campaigns in Asia. Virtual boards situated on both sides of the goals were also added to the original Spanish feed so that Asian audiences could be bombarded with gambling advertisements throughout the game. 

In short: it was all fine as long as it happened somewhere else, far from home – but close to where the offending brands intended to reach their customers. It follows from that, that discretion can be a rewarding virtue.

None of the English and Spanish clubs which Josimar contacted for comment and clarification acknowledged our messages or responded to our questions.

The Gambling Octopus
The reach of BOE brands extends far beyond the names which have been mentioned so far. Some of these brands will be completely unknown to the European public, despite the fact that they have deals in place with famous clubs and organisations. Huohu Sports, for example, uses animations featuring the Argentinian shirt (the Argentinian FA being, as already mentioned, a current partner of Kaiyun), is Parma’s official Asian betting operator, and also struck a deal with the Portuguese national team. This was mentioned nowhere in the Portuguese press.

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Then there is Yamei Sports, a sponsor of Genoa. Yibai, who are associated with Getafe. Yayu, who teamed up with Hertha Berlin, the Bundesliga club which had been one of Yabo’s first sponsors in Europe and switched to the new brand in August 2021 just as Yabo was being dismantled by the Chinese authorities. All of these, and more, such as HQBet, a partner of SS Lazio since 2020, Head Sport, a partner of Vfl Bochum, Torino’s new betting brand 365 Wanmei Sports and Yide Sports, now associated with TSG Hoffenheim, ultimately belong to the same tentacular group. All of these are owned by BOE. And a number of them hold legitimate betting licences delivered by the UK Gambling Commission, acquired through the services of one company, The Gaming Platform, better known as TGP Europe, running its operations from a semi-derelict office in Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man, if records are correct.

Treasure Island
A remarkable feature of TGP Europe is that, despite being based on the Isle of Man, they no longer operate with an Isle of Man gaming licence, but one delivered by the UK Gambling Commission. The Commission has steadfastly refused to discuss TGP Europe with Josimar. An even more remarkable trait is that they were – at least at one stage – part of the Macau-based Suncity Group. Who controls TGP Europe today is almost impossible to ascertain, as shares were transferred to a Jersey-based trust managed by the Suntera Group at roughly the same time as Yabo was encountering difficulties in mainland China. None of the entities concerned has ever responded to multiple queries by Josimar. 

Their clients’s list, however, includes a number of clients appearing in BOE’s current portfolio. 

Though not listed on TGP’s own website, Kaiyun is ‘powered’ by the Isle of Man company, as shown below, on their currently ‘inactive’ UK website. 

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It is unlikely that TGP Europe will provide answers to the multiple questions arising from their relationship with Asian-facing betting platforms any time soon, as Suncity boss Alvin Chau, a.k.a. Chau Cheok-wa, to whom Josimar devoted this in-depth profile last year, was sentenced to 18 years in prison by a Macau court in January 2023 after being convicted of “operating illegal gaming activities, running a criminal organisation” and other charges. 

The End Of The Rainbow
The question now is to find out who controls Tianyu and BOE, two companies for which no full public records are available, and which may well be screens for other companies themselves. It is a challenge that investigators of all kinds have been unable to overcome so far. A few names have circulated, Chau’s being one of them, but no definite proof has been brought forward yet.

What can now be said in confidence, however, is that if the hydras may have many heads, and grow more when needed, there are very few of them in the end. 

Aston Villa, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Mōnchengladbach, Chelsea FC, Leicester City FC and Real Madrid were contacted for comment.


Since the publication of this article, Borussia Mönchengladbach has responded to our questions as follows.

Asked if the club had met in person with ‘Anderson Chang’, named as Leyu’s ‘spokesperson’ in the statement issued by the club to announce their partnership, a representative of Borussia told us that they hadn’t ‘yet’.

The club was unable to provide us with contact details for Mr Chang or any representative of Leyu. The deal had been struck through an agency.

The club was unaware of the identity of Leyu’s parent company and of their ultimate beneficial owner.

The club was unaware that Leyu was offering sports gambling in countries where betting on sports is illegal.

Neither was the club aware that Leyu was another name for former Bayern Munich partner Yabo, or that the Chinese authorities had clamped down on the latter.

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