Santo Domingo Lottery numbers
Government investigators have established that the insiders arranged in advance what winning numbers would be drawn and bet on those numbers. The investigators said the scheme began in the late 1980's and continued uninterrupted with the protection and participation of lottery administrators until a botched drawing on television a year ago raised suspicions about the integrity of the process.
The investigators estimate that the ring made at least $7 million from illicit winnings here and pocketed an even larger amount from tickets bought abroad.
Much of that money, it appears, went to finance election campaigns of former President Joaquin Balaguer and his Social Christian Reform Party, which was in power for most of the last 30 years until Leonel Fernandez won the election in 1996.
Before his death a few weeks ago, a former chief administrator of the lottery, Hector Perez Reyes, estimated that up to 80 percent of some of the party's campaigns had been financed by ill-gotten lottery winnings.
''This is the dark face of power, '' said Nuria Piera, a reporter who helped uncover the scandal and has broadcast interviews with important members of the ''lottery mafia, '' as the people who ran the fraud are now known. ''It's a way of gathering funds whose origins you don't have to explain to anyone, that can be used whenever you want for whatever purpose you want.''
But there are also indications that the scandal reaches far beyond the Dominican Republic. Traditionally the numbers drawn here each week also serve as winners for a private lottery in neighboring Haiti and for illegal lotteries that operate in Venezuela, Curacao and also among some of the million or so Dominican immigrants estimated to be living in the New York metropolitan region.
Dominican Government officials said the ring had agents in all those locations who were given winning numbers in advance. In New York City, the agents placed wagers in dollars on those numbers at Dominican-owned bodegas throughout Manhattan and the Bronx, but often encountered resistance when they went to collect winnings from store owners suspicious of their repeated good fortune.
''It is clear that some bodegas in New York City were burned down as a result of the refusal of their owners to pay up, probably by police officers sent up there to collect, '' said a Dominican Government official involved in the investigation who insisted on anonymity. ''We also have reason to suspect that several people were killed in New York City for refusing to pay off, and we are going to be talking to the American authorities about that.''
Nine people have been arrested, among them Frederick Marzouka, a Haitian businessman who said on Ms. Piera's program that he had been a ''bagman'' for the ring, keeping a 30 percent cut of the winning bets that he placed. Also charged is Col. Manuel Cruz Madera, an aide to the former Chief of the National Police, Gen. Camilo Nazir Tejada, who was replaced last year for undisclosed reasons after the first allegations of irregularities had surfaced.
''There are a lot of authorities involved in this mess, '' Mr. Marzouka said in a television interview in which he displayed an identification card signed by ''my good friend'' General Nazir Tejada that designated Mr. Marzouka as an agent of the ''secret service'' of the Dominican police. ''They were using me as a front, and now I'm the scapegoat.''
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