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Armenian founders of company fined €700,000 acquired Maltese passports

Brothers linked to a number of offshore companies tell organisation of investigative journalists that passports were “good for business”.

The founders of Vivaro Ltd, the gaming company that received one of the largest-ever fines in Malta by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU), had bought Maltese citizenship in 2016 and 2017, The Shift can confirm.

Armenians Vahe and Vigen Badalyan had acquired Maltese passports in 2017 and 2016 respectively, among 10 family members, according to the lists published in the Government Gazette.

Remote gaming operator Vivaro was fined €733,160 by the FIAU which listed 10 violations.

The FIAU said the company failed to link player profiles across brands operating under the same licence and said the company’s monitoring systems were inadequate.

Onsite investigations revealed that the company’s threshold for flagging players as “high risk” was set at a €2,000 limit, and even then they were not being flagged. The company’s risk assessment and mitigation measures were also found to be inadequate, among other violations.

The Badalyan brothers are also linked to a number of offshore companies.

Replying to inquiries by journalism NGO HETQ, the brothers said that they had invested some €2 million into the Maltese economy. When asked to explain why they felt the need to receive Maltese citizenship, the brothers said they sought passports because it was good for business.

The Badalyan brothers bought Maltese passports for 10 family members. Photo: HETQ.

“Maltese citizenship allows us to enter 168 countries without a visa,” they told HETQ.

HETQ has been looking into the Badalyan companies since 2018 as part of the Paradise Papers project with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The Badalyan company under FIAU scrutiny, Vivaro Ltd, was registered in 2008. In August 2015, the Badalyans moved their shares to Soft Construct Ltd registered in the Isle of Man. In 2015 they also registered FC Capital (Malta) Ltd.

Nexia BT is the audit firm engaged by FC Capital Ltd and Soft Construct Ltd, according to the Malta Business Registry.

Brian Tonna’s Nexia BT was the firm that set up the offshore companies for Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi revealed in the Panama Papers.

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