Malta-Licensed Gambling Companies Probed for Italian Mafia Ties

Italian police operation targets Malta-licensed gambling companies that were allegedly used by mafia for money laundering purposes

Malta-licensed gambling companies have been suspected of serving as money laundering vehicles for various Italian mafia groups in Sicily, Reggio Calabria, and Puglia, the Times of Malta reports.

Italian police launched earlier this month its latest anti-money laundering and anti-mafia operation. As many as 68 people across three South Italy regions have been arrested so far as part of the massive probe. The arrested individuals were believed to be part of the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, and Sacra Corona Unita (SCU) in Puglia.

The mafia groups allegedly used Malta-licensed gambling companies to launder the proceeds from other criminal activities. The operation extended internationally shortly after it start and was jointly carried out with Eurojust, known to be the EU’s judicial cooperation agency, as well as police from Great Britain, the Netherlands, Serbia, and Switzerland.

The blitz resulted in €1 billion worth of assets and cash being seized across 12 countries, including Albania, Isle of Man, Romania, the Seychelles, and Malta, among others. The assets seized included luxury apartments and even a football club, according to Italian news outlets citing information from investigators.

Investigators also revealed that the probe showed that between €1 million and €2 million had been laundered through gambling companies every month.

Planetwin365 Probed over Mafia Connections?

Malta-licensed gambling operator planetwin365 was mentioned in relation to the ongoing anti-mafia operation. The brand’s parent company, SKS365 Malta Holding Ltd., was registered at an address in Swieqi, Malta two years ago.

Planetwin365 operates a number of betting shops across Italy. According to information from investigators, South Italy mafia groups had used the operator’s facilities to launder proceeds and mask their criminal activities.

Italian police said that the probe extends to gambling companies in Romania and Albania and that other, non-gambling, businesses are also being investigated over mafia connections and money laundering activities.

Commenting on the ongoing anti-mafia blitz, Catania state prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro told local media that the results from the operation show that the Italian mafia has infiltrated Malta’s lucrative gambling sector and has been using it to launder money with ease.

A number of Malta-licensed gambling companies have bee probed for possible mafia ties. However, some of them are believed to be no longer operating actively from Malta. News emerged earlier this year that at least five gambling companies have had their licenses from the Malta Gaming Authority revoked or have voluntarily surrendered their licenses in relation to a previois anti-mafia probe.

The ongoing investigation into mafia groups allegedly using Malta’s gambling industry for money laundering purposes is only the latest of a series of probes conducted by police over the past several years. Late last year, the Palermo police arrested a number of suspects who were believed to be part of a structured scheme to “translocate […] illegal activities to Malta’s online gaming industry.”

Earlier in 2017, a number of individuals were arrested in Northern Italy for participating in a multimillion gambling racket that involved gaming parlors across the country which were found to have been directly connected to a server hosted by Malta-based online gambling company Medialive

UPDATE: Shortly after reports about SKS365 being investigated emerged, the company issued a statement saying that its new owners have since 2017 worked hard to regularize its business and “enter into an open, transparent relationship with the Authorities regarding the fight against illegal online and retail gaming.”

The statement read further that following the illegal online and retail gambling investigation by Guardia di Finanza, Polizia, Carabinieri and D.I.A., authorities have “gone to great lengths to highlight that SKS365, and its related brand planetwin365, post the arrival of new owners and management in 2016 is unrelated to the investigation.”

A statement released by Public Prosecutor at the Court of Reggio Calabria pointed out that:

“It should be noted, with reference to SKS365, that the investigations concerned exclusively the property/management that operated until 2017, or rather its sale to the new owners, against whom no elements of responsibility have emerged “.

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