‘Ndrangheta investigation leads to €25 million asset freeze

Operation Gambling uncovers more companies and trusts in Malta and Panama among others

Reggio Calabria police closing down a Betuniqu betting outlet.
Reggio Calabria police closing down a Betuniqu betting outlet.

Some €25 million worth of assets have been frozen by the Calabria police after it uncovered more companies and trusts with connections to the ‘Ndrangheta, the notorious Calabria criminal organization.

In a mafia crackdown, Reggio Calabria police launched Operation Gambling revealing a network of remote gaming companies allegedly used for money laundering. Part of the network was headquartered in Malta and six Italian nationals were arrested on the island on the strength of a European Arrest Warrant.

As the investigation into the mafia-linked companies continues, the Italian police uncovered a density of international companies and trusts that have an office in Malta, Panama, Romania, Canary Islands and the Nertherlands Antilles.

The investigation led to the freezing of assets worth €25 million, in a joint operation between the Carabinieri, the Guardia di Finanza, mobile police and Reggio Calabria.

The companies and trusts were set up by the criminal organisations to manage illegal online betting, mostly through fiduciaries.

In Germany and Singapore, close to €1.7 million and €2 million respectively were seized.

The Malta Gaming Authority has suspended the licenses of several gaming companies – at least six – following Italian investigation over suspected links to the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta. Some of the companies were both licensed in Malta and Italy.

Three Italian companies which had their licences suspended by the MGA are now threatening to sue the Authority for millions of euros in damages.

Uniq Group Limited (Betuniq), Betsolution4U Ltd, and FenPlay - are challenging the decision and are holding the gaming authority liable for any damage the companies will suffer as a consequence of the suspension. Its lawyers are said to be threatening to sue for millions if the investigation yields no results.

FenPlay is represented by PN deputy leader Mario de Marco and Gianella de Marco, Uniq Group Limited is represented by Ian Refalo and Joe Giglio while Betsolution4U Ltd is represented by Roberto Montalto.

In July, six Italian men – including Mario Gennaro, the Italian man who ran the money laundering operation in Malta through a network of remote gaming companies – were extradited after police acted on a European Arrest Warrant. The others were Margherita Giudetti, 34, Francesco Ripepi, 38, Alessandro Ciaffi, 40, Rocco Ripepi, 36 and Fortunato Stracuzzi, 37. The men were connected to the Betuniq brand.