Italian police target Maltese company linked to crime

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Italian police target Maltese company linked to crime

Authorities suspect that the implicated operator served as a front to launder illicit funds derived from illegal gambling activities throughout Italy.

In a synchronized effort, law enforcement agencies across the country carried out a court-ordered seizure of assets valued at approximately €400 million ($433 million) linked to an iGaming operator based in Malta. This action aligns with Italy’s heightened commitment to combating organized crime’s infiltration into online gaming and betting, with a focus on thwarting corruption and money laundering endeavors.

An international probe exposed the operator’s connections to a sophisticated criminal network operating black market online gambling activities. While the organization’s headquarters were situated in Italy’s Reggio Calabria region, its influence extended internationally through companies with offices in Malta, Romania, Austria, and Spain. These rogue operators pose significant risks, as they lack adequate customer protection measures and responsible gambling safeguards.

The operator employed a “cascade” system facilitated by ties to criminal organizations, providing protection and boosting the brand’s online presence. Local businesses collaborated in the unlawful collection of proceeds, with a portion directed to criminal entities. This mechanism was exploited for substantial money laundering, with intentions of further expansion.

To avoid detection, the group transferred the majority of the proceeds from illegal activities abroad, eluding Italian tax authorities. The mastermind behind the operation, whose identity remains undisclosed, held a prominent position within the Malta-based company. Despite this, the operator primarily targeted the Italian market through various outlets dedicated to betting and games of chance, effectively concealing its involvement.

Following an investigation into organized crime links with businesses, authorities uncovered a crime boss holding unexplained assets. This led to the issuance of seizure warrants for the suspect’s assets and three associated iGaming companies, totaling approximately €400 million. The court imposed a two-and-a-half-year special surveillance order on the suspect, prohibiting him from leaving his municipality. This marks a significant success for Italy’s financial police and Public Prosecutor’s office, ensuring the cessation of threats posed by the offending operators to European safety.

The online gaming and betting sector, prone to criminal infiltration and money laundering, remains under intense scrutiny by law enforcement. Despite Italy’s expertise in uncovering gambling-related crime, the widespread influence of illegal networks poses ongoing challenges. The hope is that the investigation will yield ample evidence to preemptively target similar enterprises and mitigate potential harm.