“He opens his jacket, shows everyone the Glock, and says, ‘I’m a policeman, and he’s Interpol.”
It could be an extract straight out of a crime novel, but this episode is straight from the extraordinary life of Dundonian Craig Ballantyne.
Previously in the Tele, the casino boss who grew up in Fintry talked of how he got started in the business.
Now, the 67-year-old former bookie and accountant talks of gun-toting robbers, stolen casino chips and dodgy dealers.
After a spell with Ladbrokes, the former Morgan High pupil moved abroad to run a number of casinos in Poland, much to the chagrin of local gangsters.
He said: “In Poznan, there were a few issues with the local Mafia. There were two Mafia guys there I kicked out and I got a real reputation for cleaning up casinos.”
And when a blackjack float worth $30,000 was stolen, Craig had the ingenious idea of marking every single other chip with invisible UV ink to identify the stolen goods and added: “One of the casinos dragged their heels over the idea and a guy was able to cash 10 grand of chips there. One of the guys tried that here and got arrested — they didn’t do their homework properly.”
However, with thousands of dollars of chips still unaccounted for, Craig noticed a man with a bagful lurking near a casino in Poznan.
He said: “I said to my driver to stop the car. I get out, and the guy takes a swing at me with the bag. The driver’s got a baton and tackles him, pushing the baton into his back so he’s trapped. The guy is screaming, ‘Pomoz mi, pomoz mi, bandytom!’, meaning ‘Help me, help me, bandits!’.
“There’s about 20 taxi drivers nearby who come to see what the commotion is. They start asking the driver what he’s doing, so he opens his jacket, shows them the Glock, and says ‘I’m a policeman and he’s Interpol.’ That made them clear off and within a week I was managing director of all five casinos.”
Gangs also ran long-term schemes, including infiltrating the staff, with one group swindling Craig’s casinos of $6million — roughly £7m in today’s money — through dodgy shuffling. However, they were caught out by realigned security cameras and a 37-hour session of raking through the footage to catch them out.
Craig was well aware of the risks associated with cleaning up casinos and had a 24/7 security detail for two years while in Poland. He left the country for Ukraine, Romania, Kenya, Beirut and then South Africa, which he described as “stunning”.
Offhandedly, he added: “There were a few scams, a couple of armed robberies with handguns and Kalashnikovs. Fortunately, nobody was hurt — save for four bandits who got shot by police.”
He then went to Greece, cracking down on several scams and often using his favourite tactic of sending uniformed police to arrest crooks on the casino floor — his way of sending a message.
Craig was set to retire following the 2008 financial crisis but received an offer from billionaire Lawrence Ho, the sort of man “you don’t turn down”.
That offer took him to Russia, where he opened the Tigre de Cristal, a rare exception in a country where gaming is banned.
Last year, he appeared on a documentary alongside Simon Reeve, where he taught the presenter how to play baccarat.
One of three brothers to a family of grafters, Craig grew up in Fintry and later Stobswell with mum and dad Diana and Samuel and brothers Keith and Ray but hasn’t come back since losing his dad 14 years ago.
He is now in Cyprus setting up a new casino, a job he says will be his last.
He added: “Gambling is when you’re betting your house, car, marriage, on things. Gaming is when you’re responsibly using your disposable income.”
There’s no denying his work has taken him further than he ever imagined, or as he put it: “Not bad for a Fintry boy”.