In the time being of the current government the Attorney General’s Office has opened 52 pretrial investigations against casino owners. Despite the vulnerability to money laundering, in 3 years the Secretariat of the Interior (Segob) endorsed the establishment of 55 new bet and prize drawing centers.
Nancy Flores, @nancy_contra/Second and last part
From January 2013 till February 2015, the Attorney General’s Office of Mexico (PGR) has opened 52 pretrial investigations against impresarios, managers, administrators, caretakers and/or agents of bet and prize drawing centers the institution refers to Contralínea.
As a response to the information request 0001700079515, the PGR details that the persecuted offenses in all cases were of operating illegally, provided by Fraction I of Article 12 of the Federal Law of Gambling and Lotteries, which establishes as a sanction a fine of 500 till 10 thousand pesos and from 3 months till 3 years of prison.
Official data reports that only seven of the 52 investigations were consigned before the judicial authorities. The response of the PGR adds that during the administration of Felipe Calderón –when most of the permits to operate casinos were issued- barely 49 pretrial investigations were opened, all operated outside the law, of which only 7 were consigned.
Out of the official data it can be said that from 2007 to 2015 no investigation has been undertaken for offenses of operation with resources of illicit origin or money laundering, despite that the sector is considered to be highly vulnerable to it.
According to the Treasury Department of the United States, the casinos are susceptible to money laundering and other financial offenses due to the big amount of cash they receive. Therefore, in this country they are considered as non-bank financial institution with the need to develop anti-laundering programs.
Currently in Mexico there are 32 enterprises holding a valid authorization for 1,038 prize drawing and remote betting establishments, of which there are at least 357 operating.
As Contralínea informed in the first part of this work (Issue No. 466), 23 of these permit holding companies obtained income of 16.2 billion Mexican pesos only in 2014. The rest of the benefits remain unknown, as the nine companies failed to report their annual income in the financial statuses presented before Segob.
Individually speaking, the casino that had the most of benefits in this fiscal year was Comercial de Juegos de la Frontera, SA de CV (4,300 million pesos), of the brothers Francisco Javier and Óscar Rodríguez Borgio, pointed out since 2012 by the federal authorities to be allegedly behind the fuel theft and the money laundering for the Gulf Cartel.
For Dr. Carlos Flores, an expert on studies on organized crime, the massive rise of the gambling industries and casinos is directly linked to interests of organized crime, just as it is revealed in several international cases.
“It was the case of Las Vegas in its moment, and it has been the case of the tax heavens where [money] can be laundered significantly, as Monte Carlo in Europe”, he says in an interview.
He refers that in the Mexican case another irregularity persists: the liaison of the casino owners with actors of the establishment that have interests in these type of establishments. He pics the case of Abelardo Rodríguez, linked to Miguel Alemán and to matters of organized crime that used the Agua Caliente Racetrack to launder money.
Sources of international intelligence services point out that currently in Mexico there is a real issue of liaison of criminal interests with casinos in a strategy of money laundering, as indicated the researcher of the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (Ciesas).
Nevertheless in this country the application of the anti-laundering law for the cases of the betting centers and prize drawing halls is lax, inasmuch the numbers of the pretrial investigations opened and consigned by the PGR confirms, where specifically this offense is null.
Even the very own Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) –dependent of the Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP)- lacks any investigation in this regard.
At least this is reported in the response of the information request 0000600039315, inquired by Contralínea. Therein it indicates that its faculties are restricted to analyzing the notifications presented by the entities bound (those who perform vulnerable activities, among them the casinos), and to present related denouncements before the Public Ministry of the Federation over acts or operations that could favor, support, assist or cooperate in some ways for the commission of the offenses of terrorism and its financing or operations with resources of illicit origin.
He alerts that “in the data bases where the denouncements that the Financial Intelligence Unit formulates before the Attorney General’s Office are registered, there is no section or area to identify how many denouncements have been presented over possible financial offenses committed in casinos”.
Thereby, he says, he is not in a position to provide detailed information of this type of activity. However he refers that from the 1st of January 2007 till the 31st of January 2015 the UIF has formulated 406 denouncements before the PGR.
In the report Statistics of reception and denouncements, presented recently by the very own UIF, it is stated that from January till September 2015 72 denouncements were made, still it does not provide details of the type of activity that originated it.
In an interview with Contralínea Alberto Elías Beltrán –director of the Control Implementation Unit of Money Laundering of the SHCP- mentions the register of casinos before the Mexican Tax Administration (SAT) as one of the main progresses concerning the audition of the gambling sector for the issue of laundering.
“In terms of the law, the first section of Article 17 states the subject of permit holders for gambling and says that the commitment falls on the permit holder. Thus all those are registered [before the SAT] who hold a permit on behalf of the Secretariat of the Interior.”
He adds that furthermore verification visits of compliance have been occurring to the establishments of several permit holders and also of some operators, which is a figure foreseen in the Federal Law of Gambling and Lotteries and its regulations.
Even if the obligation falls on the permit holder for the presentation of the notification, details Elías Beltrán, the faculty to abide in compliance with the law also permits to perform these visits on site where the vulnerable activities are being held, that falls back not only to the permit holders but also the operators.
“The results of the visits of verification performed by the SAT have made that the obligations established in the Article 18 of the law are being abided, with the main obligations that are to identify the client-user and to present notifications throughout the site administered by the SAT.”
According to the newsletter of the SHCP over the “vulnerable activity: gambling activity, competitions or prize draws”, starting from the 1st of September 2013, the files identifying clients or users must be integrated when they involve a purchase or sale operation of the aforementioned goods in acts or operations whose value shall be equal or above or equivalent to 325-fold the valid minimal wage in the Federal District (22,782.5 pesos).
Furthermore the Financial Intelligence Unit must be alerted, via the SAT, when the amount of the action or operation i.e. of the gambling is equal or above the equivalent of 645-times the valid minimal wage (45 thousand 214.5 pesos).
Despite the vulnerability of the money laundering and other financial offenses, for the time being of the current administration, the Secretariat of the Interio- led by Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong –has endorsed the authorizations for the establishment of 55 new gambling centers and prize drawing halls.
38 out of these establishments correspond to the three new permits that authorize the same number of companies to enter the gambling market. Another 17 remote gambling centers and prize drawing halls favor three existing permit holders.
The first permit (DGJS/DGAJ/DEV/P-01/2014) was granted to the transnational Sabia Corporation, SA de CV on the 16th of January 2014. This company has among its stakeholders Stephane Vachon, a Canadian citizen, and Ligia Garza, a Mexican citizen.
The authorization to operate the remote gambling center with prize drawing halls during 10 years has been ruled after a judicial order on behalf of the Third Collegiate Administrative Tribunal of the First Circuit (Lawsuit DA-278/2011).
Established in Panama, this company is the owner of the DEK brand, present in the US, Europe and South America. In Mexico it operates the Casino Fantastic, located in Leon, Guanajuato. Its legal representative is Gustavo Barclay Larrabure.
In 2014 Sabia Corporation reported a total income of 6 million 590 thousand 184 pesos, while it settled its taxes at zero pesos.
The second authorization granted went to the company Operadora de Coicidencias Numéricas, SA de CV. This company is identified with the document DGJS/DGAJ/DEV/P-02/2014 and was issued on the 28th of October 2014. The permit endorsed the operation of 30 gambling centers and had been valid for a year.
The third permit was for Pur Umazal Tov, SA de CV. It is registered as DGJS/DGAFJ/DCRCA/P-03/2014, granted on the 24th of November 2014 and with a validity period of 10 years. According to the El Universal newspaper, its main associates would be Antonio Hawa Mahuaat and the brothers Moisés and Jacobo Semaría Capuamo, who lost the permit of their previous company Megasport.
For this case, the head of the General Directorate of Gambling and Lotteries, Marcela González Salas, was requested to attend the Chamber of Deputies and, even at the end of 2014, gave a press conference in which it assured that the permit was legal. The aforementioned permit endorses the operation of seven remote gambling centers with prize drawing halls, that formerly were the property of Megasport: Capri located at Tlalnepantla, State of Mexico, Winpot in Mérida, Yucatán; Mexicali, Baja California; Nogales, Sonora; Puebla, State of Puebla; Solidaridad, Quintana Roo; and Tula, Hidalgo.
As the company representatives appear Graciela Lea Cohn de Pogarelsky, Carlos Alberto Pelayo Padilla, Jorge Luis Suárez Valencia, Anuar Haua Maauad, Yesenia Rubio Cortez, Tufi Haua Maauad, Ethel Carballo Manjarrez and Santiago Basulto Hernández.
Furthermore these three permits, the Segob endorsed the establishment of another 17 gambling centers. According to the response of the information request of citizen information 0000400129215, ten correspond to Promociones e Inversiones de Guerrero, SAPI de CV; five to Divertimex, SA de CV; and two to Juegos y Sorteos de Jalisco, SA de CV.
The permit of Promociones e Inversiones de Guerrero dates back to the 24th of August 1993 and covers 37 casinos. The authorizations granted for the ten new gambling centers were in 2015 (the establishments are located in Hermosillo and Navajoa, Sonora; Guadalajara, Jalisco; Ciudad del Carmen and San Francisco, Campeche; Mérida, Yucatán; La Paz, Southern Baja California, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, San Francisco del Rincón, Guanajuato; and Colima, State of Colima).
Divertimex obtained its permit on the 30th of October 1991 and accounts for 12 casinos. The permits for the five new ones are granted between October 2014 and March 2015 (these are found at Playas de Rosarito, Baja California; Agua Prieta, Sonora; Los Mochis, Salvador Alvarado and Mazatlán, Sinaloa).
In the case of Juegos y Sorteos de Jalisco, this company obtained its permit on the 29th of November 2012 to operate in 35 casinos, of which only eight are operating. The new authorizations to operate two casinos were issued in October and December 2014 (its location will be in Matehuala, San Luis Potosí; and Chetumal, Quintana Roo).
Dr. Carlos Fuentes states that one of the easiest mechanisms to integrate illicit capital into the formal economy is precisely the casinos. The dirty money is justified as an obtained benefit in these spaces.
He adds that it is disturbing that, despite that it is known both that by academics as well as the own authority, there is no significant and direct supervision of the procedere in the gambling establishments.
This persists nevertheless that in Mexico annually the drug cartels are able to legalize between 6 billion and 39 billion dollars (i.e. between 102 billion and 663 billion pesos, at an exchange rate of 17 pesos for a dollar), as states the report National money laundering risk assessment 2015, drafted by the Treasury Department of the United States.
The researcher at the Ciesas indicates that the Anti-laundering Act has been insufficient to confront this illicit activity, as there has not been any real impact. In the case of the casinos, he states that they are not sufficiently supervised: the boundaries of the gambling business in cash that should be controlled, are not. “This is an open window for the illicit resources”.
For Dr. Carlos Flores, the problem of organized crime and the operations with resoucres of illicit origin that confronts the conutry have deep roots and vast networks, hidden underwater, than what is usually presented in the official discourse, where it appears as if they were lacking of creativity and nothing more.
“This machinery is oiled with the resources, not only obtained to hide under the mattress, which are reintroduced to the formal economy, and this can only be done by counting on the collusion of significant government actors, who instead of supervising and regulating the functions according to what is established by the law, maintain the empty spaces, because they are benefited by them indirectly.”
The researcher adds that despite the risk of corruption, there is no sufficient investigation over the wealth of the public servants in charge of supervising the casinos. “This should be attended to know if [the inefficiency] is due to a lack of preparation, of this lack of expertise to perform the investigations or if organized crime is being protected with the inaction of the state in this regard”.
Finally he points out that the strategy against organized crime has been focused solely on the operative aspects. The criminal enterprise, he warns implies a network a differentiation of functions and only has been focused on sector that can regenerate easily; within a logic of socio-economic conditions, where the actors stem from vulnerable circumstances.
“To those who are not that evident, who maybe don’t listen to narcocorridos (popular songs dedicated to drug lords), who appreciate some other type of artistic works, and that have another type of socio-economic conditions remain untouched. And they are those who are entrenched in the Mexican enterprises, within the political system and the security and justice system. This is what keeps this conflict running permanently without an end in sight, as while this type of actors remain, all the others are recyclable.”
For the current work the Secretariat of the Interior was solicited to give its version-throughout the public servants Robert Femat, Dora Angélica González and Herbert Arenas, of the Social Communication Coordination-, without having obtained an answer before the closing of edition.
Segob endorsed 4 thousand 100 permits for gambling in 2013
The Report of the results of the Superior Scrutiny of the Public Account 2013 reveals that the General Directorate of Gambling and Lotteries –dependent on the Secretariat of the Interior- granted 4 thousand 131 permits, of which 31 were extended in past cycles, while 4 thousand 100 remaining were delivered in the revised cycle, i.e. in the first year of the current government.
The collection in the concept of participations in this year ascended to 846 million 717 thousand 900 pesos (see graphic).
In its scrutiny, the Federal Superior Auditor of the Federation selected a sample of 16 permit holders to whom 59 permits were given, worth 460 million 552 thousand pesos in total.
Thereof can be said that the permit holder that paid most was Promociones e Inversiones de Guerrero, with 89 million 848 thousand 800 pesos; followed by Operadora Cantabria (owned by the Spanish firm Codere), with 77 million 618 thousand 500 pesos; also followed by Apuestas Internacionales, with 65 million 717 thousand 900 pesos; Comercial de Juegos de la Frontera, with 61 million 377 thousand pesos; Administradora Mexicana de Hipódromo de Agua Caliente, with 41 million 757 thosand 300 pesos.
Furthermore Entretenimiento de México, with 561 thousand 200 pesos; Enseñanza e Investigatión Superior, AC , with 19 million 547 thousand 300 pesos; Tiendas Departamentales Liverpool, with 2 million 372 thousnad 400 pesos; Sabritas with 1 million 22 thousand 300 pesos; Autofinanciamiento de Automóviles Monterrey, with 581 thousand 700; Folklor la Tapatía, with 1 million 233 thousand 100 pesos; Patronato de la Feria Nacional de San Marcos, with 1 million 61 thousand; an unidentified natural person, with 746 thousand 600 pesos, and Sabia Corporation, with zero pesos.
According to the Audit, the 16 permit holders involved 59 permits. Concerning its expiration, it indicates that period of 40 to 75 years point out, and even for unlimited time, as for the time being of the concession there was no regulation in this regard.
(Translated by: Axel Plasa)
Nancy Flores, @nancy_contra
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Contralínea 467 / del 14 al 12 de Diciembre 2015