Italian sting implicates Malta businesses in money laundering network
Italy’s federal police force has arrested 12 suspects connected to its ‘Operation Game Over II’ criminal investigation of illegal and mafia-associated gambling websites.
A dozen individuals have been charged on counts of criminal conspiracy to carry out the ‘fraudulent conveyance of assets’ through illicit online gambling businesses. Investigators cited that the suspects were processing illegal online wagers via websites belonging to Malta-based businesses that held no licences to operate within Italy. The crime ring is reported to have developed a betting network generating a turnover of €14 million per month, helping criminals launder a net profit of circa 15% of wagers placed. Malta-registered businesses ‘Leaderbet Limited’ and ‘HR Management Ltd’ have been linked to the illegal network that operated websites such as Colmatbet.com and Italbet365.com that were disclosed by investigators. Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) Chief Executive, Carl Brincat responded to developments stating that “none of the brands held an individual MGA licence”. “Since we are not in possession of all information available to law enforcement, we are not aware of whether Malta registered companies were used”. “However, given the absence of a licence issued by the MGA or by a regulator within the EU/EEA such companies would have been operating in breach of Maltese law as well, if this was indeed the case. We are following the matter up with local and foreign colleagues to provide any assistance that is required from our end”. Federal Police are investigating the website’s connection to the Mafia, as it is believed that the betting network used a scheme of agents to process illegal bets to aid the money laundering activities of Sicilian gangs. Italian news source AgiproNews explained that the investigation was branded ‘Game Over II’, as the follow-up to Police’s first investigation of illegal betting networks in Palermo in 2018. “Game Over’s first investigation saw “Benedetto “Ninni” Bacchi accused of laundering money for Italian crime families through 700 betting shops, managed by the Maltese company Phoenix Ltd and its brand “B2875”, in which Bacchi was recently served an 18-year prison sentence,” AgiproNews explained. In 2022, Italian magistrates will begin to trial the suspects charged by the ‘Glassia investigation’ – Italy’s biggest money-laundering arrest, that saw €1 billion of assets seized by police. Glassia saw Italy’s government accuse Malta regulators of maintaining unsatisfactory AML controls, as criminal gangs used licensed operators as money laundering vehicles.