Another “wide network” of Malta-based illegal online betting platforms were uncovered by authorities in Italy, the Malta Independent has reported.
The operation, dubbed Master Bet, has led to the house arrest of at least 13 people, while 46 others had their commercial assets seized. In addition, some 107 people were interrogated in connection with the alleged fraud.
According to police in Catania, Sicily, “millions of euros each month” were laundered through complex networks of gambling websites operated by two criminal groups through their gaming platform situation in Malta.
Investigators said groups owned Italian-facing websites, which were being operated without permits using platforms registered in Malta. Catania police were able to trace the operations back to the two organizations “by monitoring telephone calls and other forms of communication,” according to the report.
One of those who were under house arrest was identified as Malta business owner Francesco Airo. The 37-year-old man from Agrigento in Sicily was previously arrested on charges of “conspiracy in illegal betting activities involved with representatives of the Camorra,” an Italian mafia-type crime organization.
Italian investigators said “hundreds of people are involved in the fraud which took place on gaming websites.” Aside from Catania, arrests were also made in Ragusa, Messina, Trapani, Milan, Napoli and Rome, but there wasn’t any mention of Malta in the list of cities involved.
The widespread series of arrests stretches from Catania, Ragusa, Messina, Trapani, Milan, Napoli and Rome itself. Malta is not mentioned in the list of cities involved.
This is the latest Italian police crackdown on alleged Mafia organization-back online gambling operations. Last year, police issued 41 arrest warrants and seized assets worth €2 billion from betting operations that they claimed were tied to the ‘Ndrangheta organized crime group. That crackdown has prompted the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) to suspend the licenses of affected Malta-based companies, including Uniq Group Ltd and Betsolution4U Ltd.
In March, Italian authorities rumbled another illegal online betting and poker ring that makes use of a variety of rigging tools—including bots—to ensure customers’ chances of winning big pots were kept to the bare minimum. The ring, which operated at least 11 illegal gambling sites from servers based outside Italy, were linked to Naples-based Camorra crime group.