Ukraine’s secret services claim to have broken up an organised crime ring that operated a network of casinos in occupied Kherson and other Ukrainian cities, and funnelled cash to the Moscow-appointed regime.
Raids at more than 40 addresses uncovered illicit gambling houses hidden in office blocks and warehouses, according to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which claimed the network employed dozens of workers and generated around one million hryvnia (£22,640) in revenue per day.
Six suspected ringleaders were arrested on organised crime charges.
“The organisers of the group illegally opened several casinos in Kherson shortly before the full-scale invasion,” said the SBU in a statement on Monday. “During the temporary capture of the city, they continued to engage in illegal business.”
“Part of the received profits were transferred in cash to the leadership of the former local occupation adminstration.”
The casino operators received preferential treatment in return, according to the SBU, which says the network opened new businesses in the cities of Kyiv and Zhytomyr after the liberation of Kherson in November.
Ukrainian authorities have moved swiftly to undo Russian influence and identify collaborators in formerly occupied territories such as Kherson. More than 130 people were arrested for suspected collaboration in the city, Ukraine’s former Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Yenin said in December.
Former Kherson city councillor Volodymyr Saldo was appointed governor of the region last April by the Russian military, before fleeing to Russian-held territory when Ukraine recaptured the city.