In Belgium, at least 30 police officers are under investigation by the country’s gambling commission over allegations they stole the identities of hundreds Belgian citizens to open online gambling accounts.
Law enforcement agents are prohibited from participating in all forms of gambling in Belgium and their national registration numbers appear on a blacklist distributed among licensed gambling sites, which are required to block them. But these gamble-happy cops from Antwerp found a neat way to circumvent the ban: identity fraud.
According to the country’s gambling commission, Antwerp’s finest were a high-rolling bunch, which suggested to commission head Peter Naessens that their interests were “not purely recreational.”
The Fine Blue Line
“Sometimes large sums have been gambled that are in excess of an average monthly wage [for a police officer],” said Naessens, who indicated that the investigation might snowball.
“From the modus operandi, and the experience we have gained since the start of the investigation, we assume that this isn’t just a problem in Antwerp,” he said.
Antwerp Police Spokesman Sven Lommaert wasn’t so sure. “”Of course, we take this very seriously, but the investigation is still in its infancy. At the moment, we are assuming that dozens of people are involved, but there is a chance that the number is much smaller,” he said hopefully.
“It is simple: our people aren’t allowed to gamble. Those that do must face the consequences,” he added.
Hundreds of Accounts
The rogue officers’ racket came to light during a separate investigation into allegations that certain Antwerp police officers were extorting money from illegal immigrants. Investigators analysing the bank statements of an officer who had been suspended from duty in relation to investigation found that he had received numerous payments to online gambling websites.
Further probing discovered “hundreds of accounts” on gambling sites had been created by the Antwerp police force, who had been found to have been regularly gambling during work hours. Investigators are now trying to determine whether any of the gaming sites are at fault.
Online gambling is strictly regulated in Belgium. In order to qualify for a license, operators must partner with a legal local land-based casino and locate their gaming servers within Belgium. Those who don’t are blacklisted, and unlicensed operators targeting Belgian citizens are liable to hundreds of thousands of euros in fines, and, potentially, imprisonment of up to five years.