Australia: Bookmaker in legal loophole despite money laundering charges
Publicado el Feb 07, 2011
TheAge.com.au.- A veteran Victorian bookmaker accused of laundering drug money for a crime syndicate is still in business, despite facing serious criminal charges.
A legal loophole has left Victoria's gaming commission and racing authorities powerless to stop Peter Coster - who was charged with money laundering offences in June last year - running his bookmaking operation Doublebet.
Coster has appeared at major thoroughbred race meetings, as recently as last month, to operate his betting business. The money laundering case against Coster involves allegations he sold improperly issued winning betting tickets to a criminal syndicate seeking to launder $90,000 from the proceeds of amphetamine sales.
Racing industry sources called on Racing Minister Denis Napthine to move immediately to give regulators the power to suspend a gaming licensee provisionally until criminal charges are resolved in court.
The investigation into Coster's alleged conduct is one of the first tests of the racing integrity system, which was introduced by the former Labor government and involved previously rare co-operation between racing authorities and law enforcement agencies.
The co-operation was driven by Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna, who liaised with Racing Victoria investigators, police, tax authorities, the gambling commission, and the nation's anti-money-laundering agency Austrac.
''In the past, investigation into alleged criminal activities in racing would probably have been conducted by one agency or perhaps two agencies together,'' Perna said.
He said there was an ''anomoly'' surrounding the inability of racing and gaming authorities to take action against a licensed person charged with serious criminal offences, until a conviction was recorded.
''While I can't comment on specific cases, there is the broader issue concerning the inability of regulators to take any action until a person is convicted by a criminal court,'' he said, adding that he was considering what steps his office could take to resolve the issue.
Napthine did not respond to a request for comment by The Age on Friday, although he has previously vowed to toughen the system to fight alleged corruption in the racing industry.
Coster's charging last year follows an earlier drug trafficking investigation by detectives from the Mill Park police station. In November 2008, the detectives tapped a phone call in which drug trafficker Danny Mark Mousley arranged to launder drug money with the help of another man, Chris Costelloe.
Police arrested the men after Mousley gave Costelloe $89,900 wrapped in a white towel. Costolloe was found by police with forged betting tickets issued by Doublebet while Mousley was found with a bank cheque for $81,500. Both Costelloe and Mousley have pleaded guilty to money laundering offences.
Police are alleging that Coster improperly issued the betting tickets to Costelloe as part of a money laundering scheme aimed at allowing Mousley to claim the drug money was won by betting.
The Age reported last year that an organised crime figure, Vincent Panuccio, was helping run a bookmaking operation under the noses of authorities at the spring racing carnival. The revelations sparked an ongoing investigation by racing authorities and exposed further gaps in gaming and racing regulation.