Alleged Drug Trafficker Complains About Paraguay’s Sports Betting License Tender

Paraguay is in the process of analyzing potential candidates to receive new sports betting licenses. There has been backlash over the process over costs, but one of the groups opposing the initiative stands out for its ties to drug trafficking.

View of Asuncion, Paraguay, at night. The country is looking for a new sports betting operator, but backlash from an alleged criminal is causing tension. (Image: Alamy)

The legalization of sports betting and gambling in Paraguay has not always had great results. There is still an entrenched illegal element that prevents the country from realizing its full potential.

One of the organizations that questions the tender related to sports betting is the Paraguayan Chamber of Games of Chance (APOJA, for its Spanish acronym), currently led by Aníbal Salomon. However, neither he nor the group’s founder is in a position to cast the first stone, according to local media outlet Ultimate Hora.

Drug Trafficking, Tax Evasion as SOP

Daruma Sam SA is the only sports betting concessionaire in Paraguay. It received its license in 2018 and will maintain its hold on the market until next year.

The National Gaming Commission (Conajzar, for its Spanish acronym) is facing legal challenges over the planned transition. The launch of the tender before a new gambling law has taken hold has some people crying foul.  

Ultimate Hora reports that the man behind APOJA is Yossi Ben Ari, a drug trafficker out of Israel. He used a false identity, that of Ron Gamliel, to create the company, appearing as a successful businessman in hotels and other investments.

Ben Ari was a fugitive of Israeli justice for 28 years. He was wanted for the illegal importation of heroin and operated as a businessman in the hotel sector under two false identities, Ron Gamliel or Don Rafael. Police finally picked him up in Panama and extradited him to Israel.

The media outlet cites news coverage from 15 years ago that discusses Salomon’s exploits, as well. It states that he avoided paying PYG3 billion (US$430,534) in fees for electronic games, which forced him to close his premises.

However, he reopened the business later under another name to continue operating illegally. Ultimately, Salomon allegedly ran out of options and shut down again.

Now, he reportedly runs the APOJA without operating any casino activity. However, he questions why Conajzar calls for tenders for the legal and regulated operation of sports betting.

Salomon recently complained that the cost Conajzar expects is too high and that only an established in-country company can meet the regulator’s demands. The cost of participating in the tender was a guarantee of PYG60.65 million (about $8,700).

Corruption Breeds Corruption

The alleged premature launch of the tender and Salomon’s involvement are two examples. However, they’re not the only ones.

Reports also show that other business owners in Paraguay’s gaming ecosystem left millions of debts to the State. They did so by frequently changing the names of their companies to continue evading the Treasury.

There is now concern that Paraguay’s entire gambling market may be corrupt. A closer examination is likely coming, and Salomon may have painted a target on his back, as well.

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