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Straperlo was a business which tried to introduce in Spain in the 1930s a fraudulent roulette which could be controlled electrically with the push of a button. The ensuing scandal was one of the causes of the fall of the Republican government and the polarization of the parliament, which led to the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).

The name had its origin in the names of the Dutch partners, one of whom was Daniel Strauss, but sources differ on the exact name or names of the others. Some sources say there was just one other partner called Jules Perel. Some sources state there was a third female partner called Lowann who was the wife of Strauss.[1]

In 1935 they used their influence with the upper levels of the government to install the roulette in the Casino Kursaal in San Sebastián but the police discovered the fraud and it was forbidden. As the business had invested a lot of money in the venture they tried to recover it by blackmailing the prime minister, Alejandro Lerroux, because his nephew was involved in the business and in the trafficking of influence. Lerroux refused to get involved and Strauss denounced the case to the president of the republic, Niceto Alcala Zamora who made it public. The reaction of the parties in the opposition caused the fall of Lerroux and his Radical Republican Party government and its replacement by a Popular Front government which had support from Communists, providing the basis for the coup d'état promulgated by General Francisco Franco's Nationalists the next year.

After the scandal and more so after the Spanish Civil War the word was incorporated as "estraperlo" into the Spanish language with the meaning of any business which is illegal or corrupt. Most often it refers to smuggling.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Estraperlo in the Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico, by Joan Corominas and José Antonio Pascual, Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1989. ISBN 84-249-1363-9.
  2. ^ estraperlo in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.