MGA To Reinforce Cooperation As Further Corruption Rocks Malta Politics

Michele Magro, Malta Gaming Authority’s (MGA) general counsel, has announced that the authority will collaborate with Italy’s ADM Customs Agency and other authorities to’ eliminate online gaming criminal infiltration.’

Magro confirmed to Italian betting news source AgiproNews that MGA officials met in Rome with Italian counterparts to explore regulatory cooperation and further sharing of information to strengthen the integrity frameworks of both jurisdictions.

Italian authorities and the press have challenged the MGA’s enforcement capability following the damaging findings of the anti-mafia investigation ‘ Glassia,’ which reported that Calabria Mafias had used MGA approved’ skin gambling websites’ to launder € million in criminal activity funds.

Arresting 51 suspects and confiscating € 1 billion to date, Glassia has been described by Italian federal police as the largest ever money laundering operation in Italy.

“It is essential to have a good relationship since we share operators with licenses in both countries and seen also the recent news stories,” Magro told AgiproNews. “We exchanged information with the Italian investigative authorities during the investigations in recent months and we will do the same again.”

Glassia’s consequences have been widespread in Italy as well as abroad. Fighting gambling fraud, Italy’s new coalition government led by PM Giuseppe Conte has ordered the ADM to set up an industry register to track all betting-related transactions and to continue to fund approved incumbents externally.

Elsewhere, AgiproNews estimates that the sector of incumbents of Italian-owned, MGA-licensed gambling has narrowed to only three operators, while there were’ several thousands’ before the 2016 Calabria prosecutor’s investigations.

Magro continued: “Since 2016, the MGA has cancelled most of the licenses, other entrepreneurs have closed and the very few remaining companies have to prove to us that they run a business totally compliant both with Italian and Maltese laws.”

Magro also pointed out that the dynamics of MGA collaboration could be extended to the Italian Financial Police (GDF) as the government of Italy places additional compliance measures on the incumbents of the sector.

The General Counsel of the MGA, however, noted caveats about a direct relationship with the Italian police. It said: “Our status is very different, we will exchange information with them too, but we are a regulator. Communication with them is ongoing, even if there is no any formal agreement. The Italian financial police has strong connections with the Maltese police, not with a gaming Authority such as MGA.”

This weekend, Malta PM Joesph Muscat announced his resignation from office following two weeks of public protest over the top aides and the’ alleged complicity’ of Labour Party financiers in the 2017 murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who investigated Maltese government corruption and international money laundering.

The business community in Malta was rocked as police arrested Maltese tycoon and online gambling investor Yorgen Fenech this weekend as the lead suspect in Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Recognized as the wealthiest man in Malta, Fenech was attached to Dubai registered with the gambling investment fund’ 17 Black’–a money-laundering vehicle denounced by Caruana Galizia as one of several Malta assets disclosed in the 2015 leak in Panama Papers.

Of further concern to the business community of Malta, the European Union stressed to the government of Malta this summer that it had’ one year’ to reinforce its AML procedures in line with European standards.

Moneyval, an association of standards of the Council of Europe, explained that Malta had failed to review critical risk management criteria, AML identification, and financial crime prevention measures.

Christopher Formosa, MGA COO, spoke about the political upheaval in Malta on Tuesday. He said: “Notwithstanding the fact that changes at the highest level of Government are highly significant, the policy direction set by Government remains consistent. The Authority shall continue to implement the policy in line with its regulatory objectives, and there will be no disruption to its work.”