Malta Websites Linked To Latest Italian Mafia Bust

November 24, 2021
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Twelve people were arrested last week in Italy by anti-mafia police for running illegal betting operations through websites registered to companies in Malta.

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Twelve people were arrested last week in Italy by anti-mafia police for running illegal betting operations through websites registered to companies in Malta.

A dozen individuals arrested as part of “Operation Game Over II” are accused of criminal conspiracy, facilitating illegal online betting and the fraudulent conveyance of assets, police said.

Officials said they were organising illegal online betting businesses through websites belonging to Maltese companies that did not have licences to operate in Italy.

Five of the 12 arrested are suspected of using intimidation to further their criminal activities and serve the interests of the Sicilian mafia, known as the Cosa Nostra, particularly the Noce and Paso di Rigano families.

As with many previous mafia gambling rings, bets were taken online via terminals in retail shops, in this case distributed throughout Sicily and particularly in the capital Palermo.

The betting network was generating turnover of €14m per month, with net profit of 15 percent, investigators said.

Malta-based companies "Leaderbet limited" and "Hr management limited" are linked to the crimes, said the police, as are the brands colmarbet.com and italbet365.com.

The chief executive of the Malta Gambling Authority (MGA) said the regulator is not aware of those companies or brands.

“None of the brands hold an MGA licence,” Carl Brincat told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

“Since we are not in possession of all information available to law enforcement, we are not aware of whether Malta-registered companies were used; however, given the absence of a licence issued by the MGA or by a regulator within the EU/EEA, such companies would have been operating in breach of Maltese law as well, if this was indeed the case.

“We are following the matter up with local and foreign colleagues to provide any assistance that is required from our end,” he said.

The scheme was run by a betting site manager, who oversaw a number of so-called “masters”, a kind of regional salesman, which were charged with opening illegal betting shops across Sicily. Below them were agents in charge of running a small number of shops and finally individual dealers managing specific shops, police said.

Betting transactions did not pass through any payment platforms and were only taken in cash, which was then transferred from the betting shop manager up through the steps of the pyramid, investigators said.

Last week’s bust has been termed “Game Over II” in Italy, coming almost four years after the first big police operation against illegal betting in Palermo.

In the initial “Game Over” investigation, Benedetto “Ninni” Bacchi was accused of laundering money for Italian crime families through 700 betting shops, managed by the Maltese company Phoenix Ltd and its brand “B2875”.

Bacchi maintains his innocence and claims he is a victim of the mafia, but was recently sentenced to serve 18 years in prison.

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