Uruguay – Government workers under investigation in Mantra CasinoBy Phil - 6 June 2014
The Head of the Uruguayan Casino Control Board (DGC) Javier Chá has announced that an investigation is underway into a reported US$300,000 scam in the Mantra casino in tourist hotspot in Punta Del Este.
A total of 40 administrative proceedings have now been brought against government workers over the missing cash. The investigation, which first began in January 2013, has now been expanded and now seeks to determine the possible responsibility of a number of officials who according to Javier Cha ‘lacked sufficient diligence or committed procedural errors’ that led to carrying out of the fraudulent scheme against the state.
According to local newspaper El País the investigation first began in January 2013 when the DGC found irregularities in the handling of funds in the Mantra casino. The Casino at the Mantra Resort Spa and Casino operates under the mixed system. Under the mixed system private investors can set up a casino in a hotel but it is the state that manages and runs the casino for which it receives in return between 35 per cent and 45 percentage of casino profits. As a result the proceedings have been launched against officials working for the state.
The DGC concluded that due to an illegal manoeuvre carried out in the casino that a total of $300,000 was missed or overlooked by casino staff and put the blame on three officials who now face criminal charges and who were removed from their offices temporarily with a 50 per cent salary cut. According to Mr. Cha the manoeuvre was possible because the casino lacked sufficient controls and safeguards.
Mr Cha described the case as a serious one for the casinos industry in Uruguay made more complex by the fact that those who were initially charged are now back in their posts as they were not prosecuted within the six month deadline in place for such cases. However, a criminal judge is set to hear the first of the hearings filed by the DGC revolving the alleged fraudulent scheme over the coming days.
According to the DGC, those officials involved in the alleged scam occupied key positions in the areas of accounting and altered profits made on the gaming floor and registered less money than was gambled , and appropriated the difference for themselves. The officials then, it is alleged, went onto buy property and started a number of business ventures.