Italian state prosecutors have concluded their preliminary investigations into no less than 34 individuals who were involved in infiltrating Malta’s online gaming sector with a view to siphoning and laundering copious amounts of illicit betting activity and the ill-gotten gains of mafia clans.
The ringleaders, who the Italian media are dubbing the would-be ‘Lords of Betting’, were Salvatore Cinà, Giacomo Dolce and Rosario Calascibetta. The ‘entrepreneurs’ had frequently travelled to Malta to set up shop, where they took over a number of online betting portals that were allegedly used to take illegal bets and launder mafia money.
While a part of their online gaming business was conducted through legitimate, legal Italian platforms authorised by the Italian authorities, investigators believe the Malta element of the operation was used for their under the table business.
According to Italian investigators, for each legitimate Italian operation there was always a terminal connected to servers based in Malta or in Eastern European countries, where clandestine betting activity involving large sums of money were directed.
Italian prosecutors Dario Scaletta, Giovanni Antoci and Vincenzo Amico signed off last Friday on a notice of the conclusion of preliminary investigations into the case, which has seen the original number of Italians believed to have been tangibly involved in the Malta racket grow from last year’s 12 to 34.
The list of prosecutors’ request for indictments now includes the criminal organisation’s top management, middle managers and betting collectors.
The investigations by the Italian authorities showed how two mafia clans, Passo di Rigano and La Noce, attempted to expand their business interests to Malta, with the three businessmen — Salvatore Cinà, Giacomo Dolce and Rosario Calascibetta — frequently visiting Malta to purchase gaming portals.
The investigation by the mobile team directed by Rodolfo Ruperti and coordinated by the Palermo Anti-Mafia District Directorate also revealed how online gaming has become a favourite of mafia clans, along with drug trafficking. The new area of business has allowed them to reorganise their families and business models.
Palermo Police Commissioner Leopoldo Laricchia recently commented on the case, “This operation highlights how Cosa Nostra is interested in the world of abusive bets on sporting events, a channel for laundering illegal money from other criminal activities, and how criminal business has long been dematerialised [where physical records are replaced by a paperless computerized system] by running on the internet, involving other countries [such as Malta] with extreme ease.”
According to the Italian authorities, each mafia family has its own contact person for the online gaming business. Five prominent Sicilian businessmen have already been arrested in connection with the practice: Benedetto Bacchi from Palermo, who was recently sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment, Enzo Romeo from Messina, Carlo Cattaneo from Castelvetrano Calogero, Jonn Luppino from Campobello di Mazara, and Salvatore Rubino from Palermo.
They are all reported by the Italian authorities to have had strong connections to Malta and, together, they are said to be worth some €100 million in criminal business activity.