Two men who lead ‘Ndrangheta clans linked to Malta-based gaming firms have been arrested in Reggio Calabria, according to an announcement by the Italian authorities.
The two men are Carmelo Consolato Murina, 54, and Giuseppe Pensabene, 42, both imprisoned for other crimes related to Europe’s most powerful mafia group, the ‘Ndrangheta.
The arrests followed an operation dubbed ‘Galassia‘ which unveiled the agreement between mafia clans to share the spoils deriving from the lucrative online betting market. Assets worth over €1 billion were seized in Italy and abroad in the operation.
The mafia set up a multinational illegal betting ring, moving more than €1 billion euro from Malta to Curacao, passing through the Virgin Islands and the Seychelles.
One of the companies is Planetwin365, which operates mainly in Italy and is owned by SKS365 Malta Holding Ltd, registered two years ago at an address in Swieqi.
The company operates betting parlours in Italy and according to the MFSA registry, is owned by three Dutch companies, one of them registered in Curacao.
Murina and Pensabene together with some other 18 people arrested, are being accused of money laundering, tax evasion and operating unlicensed betting parlours.
In November the Court of Reggio Calabria issued a supervision measure, in Malta, Austria, Romania and the Netherlands Antilles, which may lead to a European arrest warrant to transfer suspects to Italy.
In recent years, Malta has been at the centre of numerous investigations by Italian authorities. The ‘Ndrangheta is not the only mafia organisation linked to Malta, described as the “ATM for the Italian mafia” by the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI).
Saying that journalists “have pieced together a disturbing picture,” IRPI said “Malta’s capacity to effectively police this industry has since become a source of worry for law enforcement across Europe.”
Last year, a Palermo court issued 26 arrest warrants in an operation called Game Over. The probe uncovered the extent of ties between Italian organised crime and the gaming industry in Malta.
“Malta has recently become the capital of online gambling and the Mafia bosses thought that this would be a good financial vehicle for them and less risky than making their money from extortion,” Palermo-based prosecutor Salvatore de Luca said.