Alleged operators of illegal sports betting sites in Paraguay are finally coming to justice. After four years of delays, they appeared in court this week and will remain on house arrest pending their trials.
It took four years, but the wait is over. Prosecutors in Paraguay charged several people with operating illegal sports betting sites four years ago. However, the case met one delay after another as the accused found excuses not to appear in court.
Out of ways to stall anymore, Carmen Carolina Duarte, Gerardo Bermúdez Arreola and Erik Fernando Martin Vázquez have now appeared before a judge. In an effort to try to keep them on a short leash, the judge ordered them to remain under house arrest pending their trials.
The three are allegedly the directors of the firms Montego Trading SA and Crown City Online Paraguay SA. The preliminary hearing for these three began yesterday. During the judicial proceedings, the judge will have to decide whether the defendants will face an oral and public trial for the operation of clandestine sports betting.
Bermúdez and Duarte were the director and president director of Crown City Bets and Jockey Bets, respectively. The online sportsbook was part of the Montego Trading umbrella. A raid by the Public Ministry conducted on June 28, 2018, of the company’s facilities confirmed that the activity was taking place, leaving the pair with nowhere to run.
Likewise, the Prosecutor’s Office maintains that the defendant Nicolás Enjamio, in his capacity as manager of the firm Enfield SA, conducted sports betting, as well. In all cases, the prosecutor asserts that none had authorization from the National Gambling Commission (Conajzar, for its Spanish acronym).
The Public Prosecutor’s Office already stated that there is sufficient evidence against each of the defendants to reach a conviction. It also asserted that Montego Trading SA continued to operate in new premises with the Crown City brand despite not having a license.
The Trial that Almost Wasn’t
Some of the delays in the judicial process may have had legitimate roots – at least one of the defendants tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn’t appear. That led to the court’s decision to postpone the hearing.
A hearing was on the calendar for October 20 of last year. However, the judge in the case pushed it back to November 30 after the defendants’ lawyer requested more time.
That delay was due to the “complex” nature of the case. Enjaimo is an associate of Leonardo Peiti, an Argentine businessman on trial for accepting bribes to operate an illegal gambling business in that country.
However, that was last month. From 2018 until now, the preliminary hearing could not be held. This was due to the innumerable attempts the defendants presented to avoid appearing in the courtroom. As recently as May 7, they were still conjuring up reasons to try to keep the trial from advancing.
The accused ran out of options, though. Now, the Attorney General of the State, Sandra Quiñónez, will have to decide whether to confirm the allegations of the prosecutor so that the judicial proceeding can be carried out.
Paraguay has a limited sports betting market. Its online casino market, however, is thriving. Pragmatic Play, Habanero and others are active in the country. Recently, though, even the iGaming market has come under fire. The country recently introduced restrictions on the slot machine segment with the goal of reducing gambling harm.
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