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The Dominican Republic – Corruption investigation deepens

By - 3 April 2023

Two Dominican legislators with links to betting businesses have admitted to having paid bribes on a monthly basis to former officials from the gambling regulatory body. According to the Public Ministry, corrupt officials took in around US400k a month in a scheme which all took place under the protection of the then Minister of Finance.

The legislators linked to betting centres, who did not want to be identified, said that they had paid millions of pesos in extortion money. “We are living through very difficult times. We had to pay religiously every month,” said one lawmaker talking to local newspaper Diario Libre.

The other deputy told the newspaper that many sports betting and lottery outlets went bankrupt due to pressure from corrupt officials during the previous administration.  According to Diario Libre, as many as nine Dominican deputies are owners or are part of consortiums of gambling businesses.

Last week prosecutors announced that Deputy Sergio Moya, will be charged for alleged corruption and being part of the fraudulent structure created in order divert funds from gambling businesses. Last Thursday the legislator denied the accusations against him and said that he had never received any money irregularly from the Dominican State nor had he pressured or charged business owners to give him money.

The corruption case, called Operation Squid (Operación Calamar) by the Office of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office for the Prosecution of Administrative Corruption (Pepca) involves more than a dozen politicians and former cabinet members. According to the accusation, in the period 2016-2020, senior officials constituted a network of illegal collections that may have amassed as much as 19,700 million Dominican pesos, some US$360 million, making it the largest case of corruption in the Dominican Republic.

The former directors of Casinos and Gambling, Oscar Chalas Guerrero and Julián Omar Fernández, were also implicated as part of the anti corruption case. The officials were accused of allowing illegal sports betting parlours, lotteries and slot machine parlours to remain open in return for bribes.

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