UKRAINIAN POLICE BUST ONLINE GAMBLING RING
Illegal ring operated 18 websites and employed 120 in Kiev.
Vadym Troyan, the acting chief of criminal police in Kiev, Ukraine has announced that his organization has broken up an illegal online gambling ring owned by Russian and Lithuanian nationals which operated 18 websites and employed 120 people – including IT professionals, online games developers, web designers and administrators – in the Ukrainian city.
All claimed that they were unaware that they were engaged in an illegal enterprise; officials appear to accept this, noting that only 20 were involved directly in the core gambling ring and detained.
Troyan revealed that a police, cyber-crime and prosecutorial task force of 80 officials was assisted by the local postal and telecommunications authorities in their investigations into the ring, which allegedly targeted online punters in Russia and Europe.
Troyan said that the enterprise generated around Euro 400,000 a month, and that police raiding the premises seized the equivalent of US$97,000, along with an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, documentary and electronic evidence.
The police chief claimed that the principals in the operation had spent some of the money from the illegal operation on jewelry and drugs, also confiscated during the police raid.
The police have advised that the organizers of the ring could face additional charges related to a criminal scheme to fraudulently obtain Ukrainian citizenship and passports.
In related news, the trade body Ukrainian Gaming Industry Association called a press conference in Kiev this week to appeal to the government to lift the now seven-year ban on Ukrainian gambling.
The ban on all gambling except the national lottery was imposed mid-2009 following a tragic fire in a gambling hall in Dnipropetrovsk that killed nine people, and the Association believes that it is time for the industry – including online activity – to be permitted to reopen with reasonable licensing fees.
Last year the governments Finance Ministry drafted a regulatory and licensing proposal to again permit most forms of land and online gambling, but the onerous provisions for taxation and licensing fees triggered complaints that the legalization was impractical and would attract little operator interest; there has been little evidence of movement since.