Malta suspends more operator licenses following Italy’s Betuniq crackdown

TAGs: betuniq, fenplay ltd, Italy, Malta, malta gaming authority

malta-online-licenses-suspensionsMalta’s online gambling regulator has suspended more operating licenses in the wake of last week’s enforcement action by Italian police against Malta-licensed Betuniq.

On Tuesday, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) announced it had suspended the operating licenses of Fenplay Ltd, whose director Vincenzo Giuliano was among the 28 Italian individuals detained by Italian police during last week’s sweep of betting operations linked to the ‘Ndrangheta crime family. The MGA also issued similar suspension notices for licensees Soft Bet Ltd, Soft Casino Ltd and Alibaba Casino Ltd.

The MGA has ordered its former licensees to indefinitely suspend all gaming operations and transactions, including deposits, withdrawals and accepting new player registrations. The MGA has further ordered the affected sites to submit all data and documentation requested by the Authority.

Affected players with outstanding account balances have been asked to contact the MGA at [email protected] and provide information including name, address, phone number, date of birth, a copy of their passport or other ID, account user name and a screenshot of their account balance or any pending cash-outs.

Meanwhile, the son of Malta’s former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has defended his role in the ownership structure of the Malta-based companies linked to the alleged Italian crime ring. David Gonzi was listed as a one-third shareholder in GVM Holdings, a Malta-based company that provided fiduciary services to companies implicated in the Italian crackdown.

The younger Gonzi issued a statement saying the MGA had conducted “extensive and rigorous due diligence processes” to determine the identities of the beneficial owners of the Betuniq online gambling brand’s operations. Gonzi said GVM had conducted its own due diligence process and ultimately determined that the beneficial owners “were of good standing.”

However, the Italian authorities claim Gonzi was “located at the summit of the pyramid structure” of the Malta-based companies connected with the gang’s alleged money laundering scheme, for which he was “to be strongly condemned.” Although they qualified that the matter “requires further investigation,” they found it “plausible to situate [Gonzi] right at the center of an international criminal business triangulation network.”

But Gonzi remains unrepentant, telling Malta Today that the dossier was factually incorrect since it didn’t recognize GVM’s role as a fiduciary company. Gonzi said he would have expected the dossier’s claims to be “backed up by some sort of evidence of which obviously there is none.”

Betuniq operated around 1,500 retail outlets in Italy known as CTDs (data transmission centers). Essentially internet cafés, they offer access to computer stations connected with international online gambling sites. The CTDs, which were at the heart of UK betting operator Stanleybet’s European Commission legal challenges of Italian gaming law, operate in a legal grey area but Italian gaming authorities have until now resisted the urge to clamp down on their operations.

While the Betuniq CTDs have been closed, it remains to be seen whether Italian authorities will attempt further actions against other CTD operators in the absence of any substantive wrongdoing such as the alleged money laundering that sparked the Betuniq crackdown.


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