Five companies depart following regulator probe into organised crime links
The Malta Gaming Authority was in the news again this week following a report in the newspaper Malta Today that five more licensees have departed Malta‘s shores following a probe into organised crime links by the regulator.
This reportedly resulted in one licence suspension, a licence cancellation and three voluntary terminations of licenses by the licensees.
The licensees involved are all allegedly Italian companies, and the MGA investigation has been ongoing for several weeks following allegations by the Italian police that some organised crime involvement has been associated with Malta online gambling, principally in regard to money laundering (see previous InfoPowa reports).
Malta Today reports that the MGA action follows a new series of arrests by anti-mafia enforcement agencies as part of the Game Over operation in Palermo.
MGA chief Joseph Cushieri told the newspaper that his organisation was open to collaboration with the Italian authorities, and indeed any legitimate enforcement organisation in order to “to iron out any concerns or misunderstandings in order to keep gaming free from crime.” The newspaper identified the companies involved in the Malta departures as B2875, a bookmaker run by Benedetto “Ninni” Bacchi through the Malta licensee Phoenix Limited. The report notes that Bacchi was the subject of Italy’s Game Over police operation and was arrested along with 30 other individuals in early February under suspicion of controlling a network of 700 illegal betting shops across the country.
Phoenix Online’s licence was suspended and will be revoked following the completion of due process.
The revoked online and retail licence involved the parent company of Leaderbet, LB Casino Ltd. The operator had been named as part of the Italian Game Over investigation and is now licensed in Curacao and continues to run its Italian land-based and online businesses as before.
Operators Betent.com (Betent Group Ltd), Potterbet (Potter Mrc Ltd) and Giodani (Giodani Limited) have all voluntarily “surrendered” their Malta licences, Malta
Today reports, observing that the latest incidents are the fourth in the last 30
months in which Italian organised crime was associated with Malta-licensed gambling operators
The prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, recently addressed the recurring gambling problems associated with Italian companies, advising that new initiatives by the MGA are strengthening the due diligence activities via more training and technical and human resources.
He also noted that significant improvements have been possible through increased
interaction with international agencies, and betting intelligence gathering on relevant people and companies. He confirmed that independent audits have been conducted, along with money laundering checks.
Malta Gaming Authority Starts Search For New Exec Chairman
Cushieri departs to take up new role at Malta Financial Services Authority
The Malta Gaming Authority has announced that it has begun the search for a new executive chairman to replace Joseph Cuchieri, who departs later this month to take up new responsibilities at the Malta Financial Services Authority as chief executive officer.
Cushieri will also sit on the MFSA’s Board of Governors.
As executive chairman of the MGA since 2013, Cushieri has overseen a major transformation process which included a reform in all gaming legislation leading to the presentation of a new Gaming Bill which is currently being debated in the Maltese Parliament.
In his new role as CEO of the MFSA, he will be responsible for the overall management and performance of the Authority, strategy development/implementation including reforms in the financial services sector.
A Certified Public Accountant by profession and a fellow member of the Malta Institute of Accountants, Cuschieri is specialised in management accounting, corporate finance, economic regulation and general/business management. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Henley Management College, UK and an Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), UK.
Throughout a professional career spanning 25 years, he held various finance related roles, senior executive positions and directorships within the private and public sector amongst which Head of Corporate Affairs and then Chief Commercial Officer at Vodafone Malta, Chief Operating Officer at the Malta Communications Authority and senior consultant with EY.
During his time at Vodafone, Cuschieri was involved in key regulatory projects both in Egypt and Turkey, and spent a period of eighteen months enrolled on the Vodafone Group’s global leadership development programme. He has wide experience in economic regulation particularly in the electronic communications and technology sectors where he was involved in major reforms in the telecommunications sector during his time at the Malta Communications Authority.
Cuschieri is also a member of the Blockchain task force where he was involved in the development of a new regulatory framework for virtual currencies and distributed ledger technology.