Tista’ taqra bil-
Italian Guardia di Finanza officials have executed seizures of corporate assets, trusts, and financial holdings linked to a Malta-registered society involved in the online gambling and betting sector.
The €400 million seizures, part of the ‘Operation Galaxy’ investigation, expose the ‘Ndrangheta mafia’s infiltration into the lucrative gambling industry.
The entrepreneur at the centre of the operation, Antonio Ricci, is believed to have established a criminal system that unlawfully collected online bets, with operational bases in Reggio Calabria and branches abroad in Malta, Romania, Austria, and Spain.
Investigators suspect the gambling association had ties with ‘Ndrangheta, offering a share of profits in exchange for protection and brand promotion online and in local establishments.
Bookmakers allegedly entered agreements with the criminal group to strengthen their economic position in Calabria, transferring collected sums to the association’s overseas administrative base to evade Italian taxation. The entrepreneur, deemed the real controller of a Maltese company, operated in Italy through a stable organisation with seized assets in 2019.
The District Anti-Mafia Directorate authorized an economic-patrimonial investigation, leading to the identification of assets disproportionally exceeding the declared income capacity.
The Court ordered the seizure and subsequent confiscation of three online gaming and betting companies, two Maltese trusts, and related financial portfolios, estimating the total value at approximately €400 million. The entrepreneur faces a Special Public Security Surveillance order for two and a half years.
Malta, once a pioneer in online betting regulation, has faced growing concerns about money laundering scandals. The country’s regulatory framework, established in 2004, initially positioned Malta as an EU trailblazer, but recent scandals, including allegations of laundering money for powerful mafia groups, have raised apprehensions about its regulatory effectiveness.