Slovakia’s state-run gambling operator Tipos is under scrutiny after its offices were raided and its boss arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
On Tuesday, around 30 members of Slovakia’s National Criminal Agency (NAKA) descended on Tipos’ Bratislava offices, leaving with the company’s boss Ján Barczi and IT chief Miloš Prelec in handcuffs. The pair will reportedly face a custody hearing on Friday to determine their immediate fate.
Local media reported that the pair will face charges of “violations of obligations in the administration of foreign property and legalization of income from crime.” Neither Tipos nor the Ministry of Finance have yet to issue any statement regarding the allegations or who is running the ship following the detention of the two execs.
NAKA was reportedly acting on a tip that money was being laundered through Tipos online accounts. Money of questionable origin was reportedly deposited into dormant Tipos accounts, then transferred to private bank accounts without any gambling activity taking place.
The activity was reportedly going on for years before NAKA received its tip-off, although local media suggested the total volume of laundered funds amounted to only around €500k. NAKA is still investigating whether the arrested execs simply ignored the activity or personally profited from it.
In April 2018, Tipos closed 142 player accounts on suspicion of money laundering. The company claimed at the time that the total sum laundered through these accounts was €260k while other sources claimed the figure was closer to €20m. An anonymous whistleblower accused Barczi of interfering with the internal investigation of this activity.
NAKA was reportedly also interested in Barczi’s appointment of an unidentified assistant who allegedly facilitated the suspect financial transfers. Several contracts of a dubious nature that Tipos entered into are also said to be under NAKA’s microscope.
Tipos offers online lottery, sports betting, casino and poker products via its etipos.sk site. In December 2018, Slovakia’s legislature approved plans to open up the country’s online gambling market to private operators, only to have the new Gambling Act vetoed by President Andrej Kiska due to concerns over insufficient consumer and data protections. This veto was subsequently overruled by a second parliamentary vote.
The original launch date for Slovakia’s liberalized online gambling market was July 1, 2020. Would-be applicants whose domains appear on the country’s online gambling blacklist were told they’d have to sit out for 12 months before being allowed to file their applications.