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Five Online Gambling Firms Exit Malta Amidst Mafia Allegations

Written by:
Guest
Published on:
Mar/14/2018

  • MGA suspends two licenses while three other companies opt to leave the island nation voluntarily
  • Italian politician visit to Malta late last year shed light on the Mafia influence there that gained a foothold in online gambling
  • The Italian Mafia is believed to have been involved in the murder of a Slovac journalist due to write an expose on organized crime links to politicians
  • One of the suspended online gambling operators has already obtained a license in another Web gambling jurisdiction

This week it was announced that five international Web gambling firms were made to leave the world's largest Internet gambling hub, the Mediterranean island nation of Malta.

An MGA gaming probe has seen one licence suspended, one cancelled and three companies choosing to avoid scrutiny by unilaterally “terminating” their own licences.  Each is said to have ties to Italian organized crime.

The action comes just months after Italy demanded Malta start taking more aggressive action against organized crime.

Last October, during an Italian parliamentary visit to Malta, Italian Democratic Party senator Rosy Bindi called for greater cooperation from Malta authorities to curtail organized crime.

At the time she accused mafias of having a grip on drug trafficking, petroleum trafficking, immigration and online gambling on the island.

Bloodshed

Italy's anti-mafia force on Tuesday arrested 11 suspected gangsters accused of aiding and abetting fugitive Matteo Messina Denaro, widely believed to head up the Sicilian mafia and someone known for his ruthlessness and boasting that he could "fill a cemetery" with his victims.

A former Cosa Nostra hitman, Denaro was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for multiple murders.

The arrests come just one month after Slovak reporter Jan Kuciak was found along with his fiance shot dead in his home.  Kuciak was about to publish an investigative report alleging high-level political corruption linked to the Italian mafia.

Last May, an Italian mob boss was gunned down while riding his bicycle.

Giuseppe Dainotti, 67, was shot in the head as he cycled along a street in Palermo.

Another mobster and two innocent farmers were shot dead last August.  At that time there had already been 17 murders tied to the Italian Mafia with more to come during 2017.

Get Out!

Maltese authorities appear serious about ridding the online gambling industry of alleged crime figures.

Gaming industry sources named B2875, a company run by Benedetto ‘Ninni’ Bacchi, through its Malta licensee Phoenix Ltd, and Leaderbet as the two operators that had their licences withdrawn by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA).  Both are accused of money laundering by the Italian Government.

Others, including Betent.com, Potter Mrc Ltd, and Giordani, owned by Giordani Limited, returned their licences voluntarily.

From the Times of Malta:

After reports associating Malta with Italian operators using the island as a money-laundering platform, the MGA “seems to have put its act together to clean up the industry from unwanted and dodgy business”.

“This is a step in the right direction, and we hope this is not just a media stunt. It should continue because the island cannot afford a bad reputation, particularly as the industry’s contribution to the economy increased dramatically over the past years,” the sources added.

The Times of Malta reported late last year that an anti-Mafia investigation in Palermo had uncovered plans by various Mafia clans to relocate their underground activities using online gaming companies in Malta.

A series of police raids in Palermo led to the arrest of about 25 suspects in connection with the infiltration of the Mafia in horse races in the Sicilian capital.

A Palermo anti-Mafia investigation began weeks after seven people were arrested in northern Italy in connection with a multimillion-euro online gambling racket allegedly involving parlours across Italy that were directly connected to a server hosted by Medialive Ltd, based in Qormi.  Medialive is a provider of live casinos online. 

In a comment to MaltaToday, the executive chairman of the MGA, Joseph Cuschieri, said the authority was now open to collaborate with the Italian anti-mafia commission and any other law enforcement agency “to iron out any concerns or misunderstandings in order to keep gaming free from crime.”

In the meantime,  Leaderbet, LB Casino Ltd appears to have found a new island nation to run its online gambling business from.  It is now licensed in Curacao and continues to run its Italian land-based and online businesses there.

Malta recently announced its intention to become a blockchain hub.

- Alejandro Botticelli, Gambling911.com

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