Italian crime families use Malta to launder dirty money

News magazine l’Espresso says Malta features in Camorra’s network of shop fronts for the laundering of their narcotics empire

Arrested: Camorra boss Nicola Schiavone in 2010
Arrested: Camorra boss Nicola Schiavone in 2010

Camorra in Malta? The investigative news magazine l’Espresso seems to think so. They are setting up shop on the island with fronts masquerading for money laundering operations, serving up bad food at the front of the house while their dirty cash gets ‘washed’ in the back.

‘How the Camorra became European’ – writes Giovanni Tizian – who goes far as describing the island’s entertainment mecca, Paceville, as “free territory” for the Neapolitan mobsters.

“Restaurants, discos, casinos and nightclubs. The ideal place to invest hard cash. The Casalesi here have banked on restaurants and gambling. Nicola Schiavone planted part of his family’s fortunes here – now he is locked up in the 41 bis,” Tizian writes of the maximum-security jail that houses convicts from the organised crime families.


(2010 arrest of Schiavone - Italian news)

According to turncoat Francesco Della Corte, Schiavone’s right-hand man Nicola Della Corte “handled the clan’s economic interests in Malta, Romania, Corsica, Elbad and Emilia Romagna.”

Despite the alleged inexistence of the kind of violence and deep-rootedness of Mafia-style criminality, the links with Sicilian gangs and local criminality have long been established. While gangs from the Cosa Nostra families and Camorra clans benefit from the weak state in the south of Italy, in Malta they find intimate connections with top businessmen, links with political patrons, and financial and legal know-how for their money laundering activities.

Gaetano Fidanzati
Gaetano Fidanzati

An Italian magistrate’s dossier and transcripts on conversations between the deceased boss of the Resuttano mandamento of the Sicilian Mafia, Gaetano Fidanzanti (first reported in MaltaToday in February 2014) and an Italian connection seeking to set up a gaming business in Malta – in MaltaToday’s possession – names a prominent business group and its chairman as a possible hook-up to set up shop on the island.

It’s no secret that Sicilian traffic to Malta provides casinos, of which there are none on the Sicilian island, with up to 50% of their business: connections made with Sicilian businessmen and similar ‘men of honour’ are easy to make.

“The way money laundering works is… the money has to arrive in Ireland, then return to Italy, and then make psychopathic turns. The secret is to never let it stop, move it continuously to clean it, until it cannot be whiter. Europe has become a large washing machine,” Tizian writes.

Nicola Schiavone was arrested in 2010 in his villa in Casal di Principe, the small town north of Naples where his clan is based. He is the son of imprisoned mobster Francesco Schiavone, reputedly the long-time top boss of the clan. Nicola Schiavone was wanted in connection with three murders.

Fighting money laundering

The use of Maltese bank accounts and international wire transfers have featured in the vast majority of suspected transactions reported to the police and Malta’s financial intelligence analysis unit (FIAU) in 2013.

29 suspected offences were reported to the police in 2013, the highest amount since 2008, the majority pertaining to suspected fraudulent activity.

“The main trend observed during the year as that most cases referred to the Police for investigation involved the use of a company registered in Malta having at least one non-resident foreign beneficial owner. Once again, the use of Maltese bank accounts and international wire transfers featured in the vast majority of the cases reviewed,” the FIAU said in its annual report.

“As observed in 2012, the use of companies licensed by the LGA (Lotteries and Gaming Authority) to operate in the remote gaming sector also featured in a number of cases referred to the police for investigation. Similarly, companies licensed or authorised by the MFSA (financial services authority) to provide services were identified as having potentially been used to disguise the origin of criminal proceeds,” the FIAU said.

The LGA says individuals involved in the gaming sector are closely kept under review and monitored to make sure that the fit and proper test is satisfied at all times.

“Malta has a strong reputation in this industry and a number of EU member states use Malta as a best practice model to launch remote gaming regulations in their own countries,” the authority said.

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