Kosovo: police arrested in raids on 12 illegal casinos

Kosovo banned all gambling for ten years in March 2019.
Kosovo banned all gambling for ten years in March 2019.

At least ten police officers are reported to have been arrested as part of an operation to close down 12 venues.

Kosovo.- Authorities say 35 people including at least 10 police officers were arrested during a huge operation to close down illegal casinos in the district of Gjilan near Kosovo’s border with Serbia.

Hundreds of officers took part in raids on 12 casinos in the eastern district, dismantling their operations and seizing gaming machines.

Centring on the village of Karachevo, the operation is the biggest of its kind Kosovo has seen and followed a year-long investigation.

Jetish Maloku, chief prosecutor in Gjilan, said 35 people had been arrested on suspicion of illegal gambling, prostitution and trafficking people, guns and drugs. 

Among the arrests were at least 10 border police who allegedly facilitated illegal trafficking between Kosovo and Serbia.

Kosovo passed a bill in March 2019 to ban all forms of gambling for ten years because of the industry’s links with organised crime.

It made the move after two workers at different casinos were murdered within days of each other. A police officer was arrested in connection with one of the killings.

At the time, Kosovo’s then prime minister Ramush Haradinaj said the measure was aimed at “strengthening public security”.

As the ban came into force last year, police shut down nearly 500 gambling sites across the country, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Gambling, particularly sports betting, had been growing in popularity before the ban. The Gambling Association of Kosovo estimated that 4,000 people were employed in gambling before the ban came into force.

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