Australian Online Regulator Probing Cyprus Payments Subsidiary

April 5, 2024
Australia’s federal online gambling regulator is probing a Cypriot-controlled Australian payments company with alleged links to illegal online gambling services.

Australia’s federal online gambling regulator is probing a Cypriot-controlled Australian payments company with alleged links to illegal online gambling services.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on February 1 ordered Melbourne-based Authenticate Solutions to hand over evidence of an associate’s operation of at least 17 illegal gambling services, according to ACMA documents published on March 20 following a freedom of information (FOI) request.

The probe into Authenticate Solutions and its dual directors Timothy Joseph Hart and James Lindsay Cameron includes highly granular scrutiny of corporate activity. The move marks a strengthening of ACMA oversight of the underground online gambling industry after years of regulatory restraint.

Hart and Cameron were warned in the letter that a failure to comply with the probe could lead to prison time.

Based on corporate registry data, Authenticate Solutions is a wholly-owned financial technology subsidiary of Cyprus-registered ISX Financial EU Plc that provides “financial technology software solutions for customer onboarding, identity verification, core banking and e-wallet solutions”, according to the ACMA documents.

The notice to Authenticate Solutions redacts the name of the online gambling operator.

But in a draft internal document, the ACMA notes that the latter’s services “have a large market presence and are causing significant harm to the Australian community, based on the large number of complaints received about services and the ongoing creation of mirror sites following website blocking".

“In addition, the majority of these services continue to have substantial Australian traffic each month.”

The document adds in footnotes: “Since the first complaint was received in October 2018 to December 2023 we have received 37 complaints about the [illegal] services.”

In addition, “during a six-month period (between June and November 2023) there were over 2.3m visits to the [illegal] service from Australia”.

The internal ACMA document also says that the online gambling operator had been “issued several formal warnings in respect of these services” and was the target of website blocking requests.

Authenticate Solutions was required to submit information by February 24 on services provided to the online gambling company, along with details of its principal officers and overseas and domestic contacts.

The ACMA notification also required Authenticate Solutions to hand over all data on bank transfers, bank names, account numbers and account owners, as well as details of any other payment method for the period March 1, 2019 to the present.

Included in the data sweep are all records relating to contracts, agreements and understandings, and billing or other records relating to payments for services.

It was not immediately clear which person or organisation applied for the case documents under FOI provisions, which require any released documents to be made available to the public.

The ACMA’s years of warning letters to operators, website blocking orders and careful but low-volume investigations into Australia-facing gambling websites appear now to be a thing of the past.

This was more recently illustrated in mid-2023 when a separate FOI request by the Sydney Morning Herald uncovered a series of communications between the ACMA and the embattled Curaçao gambling regulator ahead of licensing reforms in that territory.

Curaçao has long been identified as a home for numerous companies illegally targeting Australian online gamblers, and the ACMA had urged its Curaçao counterpart to act against a list of suspected violators, prompting a Curaçao undertaking to share information.

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