A multimillion-euro online gambling racket involving parlours across Italy was directly connected to a server hosted by a Qormi-based company, the Times of Malta was told.
Months-long investigations by the Italian fiscal police led to the arrest of seven people suspected of involvement. They included Massimiliano Fullin and Fabio Veglianetti, directors of Medialive Limited, which operates an online gambling company licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority, gaming industry sources said.
The sources said Operation Doppio Jack, as the investigation was dubbed, indicated that about 24 gaming parlours in six Italian regions were possibly being used for clandestine gambling activities not recorded by the Italian fiscal authorities.
The racket, which is also being investigated to establish if money-laundering activities were involved, is calculated to have been handling about €10 million worth of gambling activities every month using a system connected to the Malta-based servers.
The Florence procurators leading the investigation suspect that the full-blown illegal operation ran in parallel to a legal online gaming system offered by the Qormi company.
“The 24 gaming parlours were controlled remotely through the servers in Malta and all the money exchanged ended up going through the Maltese servers in various bank accounts on the island,” the investigators said.
The Italian investigators admitted they would have preferred to seize and possibly freeze the assets of the Malta-based company and its directors. However, they said they would first overcome “legal obstacles” and then attempt to demand the issue of seizure orders in Malta.
“Unfortunately, it was not possible to make the necessary seizures in Malta due to various issues related to international relations,” the Italian police said without giving any details.
“On our part, we wanted to put an end to this criminal activity and decided that, at least, we will stop it from our end [Italy]. If we manage to resolve the outstanding issues [with Malta] and still be in time, we will ask for the necessary action to also be taken by the Maltese authorities,” Giuseppe Creazzo, head of the Prosecutor’s Office in Florence, said.
According to the investigators, the 24 gaming parlours were camouflaged as ‘legal’ gaming operations related to NGOs, such as amateur sports associations, internet cafés and cultural circles in Tuscany, Marche, Lazio, Veneto and Emiglia Romagna.
All were interlinked remotely, and the money gambled passed directly on to the Maltese platform, thus avoiding the system controlled by the Italian gaming authorities, they said. Contacted yesterday, a spokesman for the MGA said that the gaming watchdog was following the case closely.
“It is yet unclear whether there is a direct nexus between the MGA licence and the accusations being made by the Italian authorities against this company, given their [the company’s] global links with other gaming jurisdictions,” they added.
The spokesman said that, so far, it had not yet been approached by the Italian authorities about the matter. This newspaper is informed that Mr Fullin and Mr Veglianetti, both Italian nationals, are the only directors of Medialive Limited, which was registered in 2005.
They are both registered as residing in an apartment in George Borg Olivier Street, St Julian’s. Mr Fullin is also in possession of a Maltese ID card and has a residence permit.
Described as one of the leading online casinos with live croupiers, Medialive Casino employs gaming operators and owns a studio from which it operates live gaming sessions.
Malta is considered to be a hub of the online gaming industry, with about 500 international companies registered on the island. Its lucrative gaming industry has been in the eye of the storm lately following international reports dubbing the island as a paradise for money-laundering and criminal activities.
The government insists that laws and regulations, including those governing the gaming industry, are in conformity with international and EU practices.