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Brazil – Major crackdown on illegal Brazilian gambling ring

By - 26 November 2014

The Brazilian Federal Police Force have launched a large scale operation across several states called Operação Trevo (Operation Shamrock), aimed at dismantling a criminal gang accused of running a money laundering and illegal gambling scheme.

According to police sources, the gang has been active in 13 states and the scheme involved the popular Jogo do Bicho game (The Animal Game) and illegal slot machines. Police sources estimated that the organization handled approximately 1.5bn Reais.

The operation, which involved over 300 police officers, had orders to arrest 57 individuals and seized houses and other properties belonging to members of the gang. The arrests were the culmination of a nine month investigation into illegal gaming in Brazil and arrests were made in the starts of Pernambuco, Alagoas, Goiás, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Amazonas, Espírito Santo, Pará, Rio de Janeiro, Piauí, Rio Grande do Sul, Bahia and Paraíba.

According to police, the band took advantage of a fake charitable lottery and then used the money for money laundering activities. Meanwhile, another gang leader based in São Paulo, was responsible for the provision of illegal slot machines operating in a number of states nationwide. The group also, according to the investigation, acted to ensure the money used in the popular Animal Game in the Northeast of Brazil, was used for money laundering purposes.

Illegal gambling in Brazil has been a long running issue and gambling in Brazil is the most politically charged issue in the region due primarily to the proven links between gambling and organised crime. Worth billions of dollars each year, The Animal Game, an illegal street lottery, is played widely and numbers runners have repeatedly been found to operate bingo halls and offer politicians and local officials bribes in return for closure.

The lottery-type drawing, operated on a regional basis by criminals known as contraventores, has been illegal since 1946 in 25 of the 26 with Paraiba being the only state where the game is legal and regulated.

Casinos were first banned in 1946 by President Eurico Gaspar Dutra and casinos and online gambling remain prohibited under Brazilian law. While bingo halls were banned in the aftermath of the bingo scandals of 2004 since then the majority of bingo halls have been able to remain open by individual judicial order or via specific legislation now in place in several Brazilian states.

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