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Bolivian Bingo

_45339504_bingo_bahiti_226.jpgForget oil pipelines or arms deals, Russia’s influence in Latin America has hit another major financial nerve ending: casinos. As The Miami Herald reports, Russia’s Ritzio Entertainment Group manages a string of successful bingo halls in Bolivia, prompting concerns  about corruption.

”If you want to launder money with a casino, there are a whole variety of ways you can do it. Bring some money in, usually cash, buy a lot of chips, go gamble a little bit, then you turn your chips in for a casino check. That check you can then deposit anywhere you want to,” says Raymond Baker, a fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C.

Hector Cornejo, a district attorney in Santa Cruz, is currently investigating several cases concerning dirty money laundered through Russian casinos the city, which he calls an “unregulated paradise.”

”It’s a secret everyone knows about, and no one discusses, and it’s getting out of control. Everything is related — arms trafficking, money laundering, casinos, human trafficking, prostitution, fraud and organized mafias,” said Cornejo. “You have dead people showing up daily.”