The Italian federal police have caught 12 people who are suspected of being connected to illegal gambling websites, possibly operated by the Mafia.
Operation Game Over II Seeks to Put End to Fraud
According to the police, the arrestees are a part of an illegal gambling ring and were processing illegal online bets to Maltese operators who are unlicensed to take wagers in Italy. Investigators estimate that the whole illegal gambling operations earn as much as $15.8 million a month, out of which 15% goes to the criminals’ pockets.
The illegal network operates unregulated online gambling sites such as Italbet365.com and Colmatbet.com and it is strongly believed that the websites are correlated with the Mafia and the police believe that the betting network is a scheme to help with the money laundering efforts of gangs in Sicily.
The arrests are a part of the so-called Operation Game Over II investigation, which is the continuation of the police’s efforts to combat illegal gambling in the country after the Palermo investigations in 2018.
In 2018, the first Game Over operation ended with the so-called “betting king” Benedetto “Ninni” Bacchi arrested for laundering money for the Mafia through 700 betting shops. Bacchi’s illegal betting operations were managed by the Malta-based company Phoenix Ltd. He was eventually sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The Maltese Regulator Vows to Assist the Investigation
As in the 2018 investigation, Malta is once again included in the equation. This is because the two aforementioned sites, Italbet365.com and Comatbet.com, are both believed to be linked with two gambling businesses headquartered in Malta, namely Leaderbet Limited and HR Management Ltd.
However, none of the aforementioned businesses had a license to operate in Malta either, as disclosed by Carl Brincat, the chief executive officer of Malta’s Gaming Authority. He explained that those businesses operated illegally in Malta and had neither a Maltese license nor a European one. As such, they most likely operated in breach of the local law.
“We are following the matter up with local and foreign colleagues to provide any assistance that is required from our end,” Brincat concluded.
Italy’s efforts against unregulated gambling and money laundering continue to this day. The next year will mark the beginning of the trial against the suspects who are believed to be related to the Glassia investigation – an operation that resulted in the biggest money-laundering arrest. The Glassia investigation led to the police seizing the whopping $1.13 billion of assets.
The Glassia investigation once again led to friction between Italy and Malta, as the Italian government accused the MGA of being too lenient in its regulations.