The Malta Gaming Authority has suspended the licenses of another three operators in connection with the ‘Ndrangheta organized crime ring. A director from Fenplay Ltd, Vincenzo Giuliano, was among another 50 people arrested last week as part of a sting in Italy that saw Italian Police sweep over 1400 betting shops, 82 online gambling sites and 55 companies, seizing assets worth $2.2 Billion.
Six of the companies were based in Malta and stand accused of fraud and money laundering. Since the scandal broke a few weeks ago a total of 9 Maltese licenses have been suspended including those of Uniq Group, Betsolution4U Ltd and Uniq Shopping Ltd. This week saw the suspension of licenses belonging to Fenplay Ltd, Soft Casino Ltd and Soft Bet Ltd.
Gross Negligence and a Failure to Act“The Maltese authorities are trying to catch up with what the Italian police are revealing from an investigation that has been going on for many years. “
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is considered one of the most well regarded licensing organisations but has come under heavy fire this week following huge criticism in the Maltese national press who demanded to know why this “gross negligence” was allowed to go on.
The case all centres around Mario Gennaro, the alleged mafia mastermind behind the use of these gaming companies as a means of laundering money. He set up Uniq Group in December of 2010 as a holding company and, without even being able to open a bank account, he was handed another gaming license fewer than 2 years later. Gennaro was one of six Italians arrested initially in connection with fraud and money laundering tied to the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate after local Police acted on a European arrest warrant.
A report in the Maltese national newspaper, Times of Malta, also tied in David Gonzi, son of former Maltese prime minister, to the arrests stating he had been formally included in the investigations. The Malta Gaming Authority stated it has suspended these companies with immediate effect but the question still looms as to how these individuals were granted licenses and allowed to operate under the radar for so long.
More drama still to come
Industry insiders have warned that this is not the end of the story and that the men arrested have been known to authorities for an extended period of time.
“The Maltese authorities are trying to catch up with what the Italian police are revealing from an investigation that has been going on for many years. It’s not the end of the story in terms of Malta based companies,” an insider told the Times of Malta this week.
This follows an explosive editorial which stated that the island and its economy “needs to be protected against abuse by unscrupulous operators who use the advantages that the government and regulators offer to attract new industries.”
Maltese Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth, José Herrera MP, denied that standards had slipped stating “we have tightened our due diligence even more in the last months” blaming the scandal on the presence of “some bad apples.”
Mario Gennaro appeared in court alongside the six other Italians who were extradited from Malta.