Gambling operators have threatened to pull their businesses out of Malta amid reports that a mafia group has infiltrated the sector.
The Times of Malta reported that Malta-based operators are exerting extra pressure on the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) to weed out gambling firms that are connected to Cosa Nostra kingpin Matteo Denaro and clean up the industry from unwanted and dodgy business.
Citing unnamed sources, news outlet said “a number of companies” would leave Malta if the MGA “failed to clean up the sector.” The operators have expressed concern about MGA’s lack of cooperation in terms of freezing the assets of gambling firms with alleged links to the Italian mafia.
According to the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI), the Italian courts have made an urgent request to the Attorney General in Malta to freeze Centurionbet’s assets after authorities found a connection between the Malta-licensed company and Francesco Martiradonna, son of a convicted mafia boss.
Martiradonna, who was arrested in May 2017, is facing trial in June, alongside 100 other suspects in connection with their alleged involvement in organized crime.
MGA suspended Centurionbet’s license a month after Martiradonna’s arrest. However, the suspension didn’t make much of a difference since the flow of money from Malta to Italy remained open through Centurionbet’s assets, according to the Italian prosecutors.
Italian authorities had repeatedly asked the Maltese authorities to freeze Centurionbet’s assets but their requests fell on deaf ears. In her frustration, Italian chief anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri chided the Maltese authorities for not acting upon their request.
“It is easier to work with Peru or Colombia than with Malta… If Malta decides not to collaborate or replies six months or a year later, the investigation is useless,” Gratteri said, according to the report.
Malta’s Attorney General Peter Grech denied sitting on Italy’s request, saying that the agency had already informed his Italian counterparts that Centurionbet’s assets are already frozen. IRPI, however, refuted Grech statement and said that Malta has yet to provide a proof that the assets are no longer accessible to anyone.