Police boss searched for links to gambling cover-up

The office of Moscow Region’s police chief has been searched amid claims his men are covering up illegal gambling dens.

The measure came after the FSB tipped off investigators about a large network of underground casinos flouting a nationwide gambling ban.

The prosecutors allegedly hushed up the network of 15 illegal casinos in the Moscow Region for free holiday tours and overseas trips paid for by the suspected owners of the casinos.

The police raided the casinos and found documents confirming that the prosecutors were involved in their activities.

During the ensuing investigation, a criminal case was opened against the son of Russia’s prosecutor general, Yury Chaika.

Two foreign embassies in Moscow, the Belarusian and North Korean, were also accused of running illegal casinos on their premises. Both countries fiercely denied the allegations and promised to investigate the cases. The Izvestia newspaper reported that the illegal casino in the Belarusian embassy scoops up an estimated 500,000 rubles per day.

The first radical moves against illegal casinos were made back in 2009, when a federal law restricted gambling to four special zones away from major cities. The measure, however, proved ineffective, as the gambling industry simply went underground.

In April 2011, President Dmitry Medvedev suggested upping the punishment for the entrepreneurs behind illegal gambling houses. If the new law is adopted, operators of such casinos will face a $12,000 fine and up to three years in prison. Medvedev is also pushing for the confiscation of the gambling houses themselves and forbidding thematic Internet sites based outside the legal gambling zones.

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