More than 50 people are expected to face charges after an Italian anti-mafia agency completed a year-long investigation into links between organised crime and Malta’s online betting sector.
The "Galassia" inquiry, which began last November, is the latest in a series of Italian investigations into the way in which Malta-based online betting companies and unlicensed Italian betting shops channelled money to the mafia.
More than €1 billion in assets have been confiscated as a result of the inquiry.
51 people identified by investigators now have 20 days to file statements, briefs and other documents with the Italian authorities.
The prosecutor’s office is then expected to ask a judge for permission to proceed with court cases against them.
Illegal gambling operations with a combined annual turnover of €4 billion
The Italian investigation, led by the prosecutor’s offices from the Reggio Calabria, Catania and Bari regions, uncovered illegal gambling operations with a combined annual turnover of around €4 billion.
Among the long list of individuals now expected to face trial in Italy are the former owners of an Austrian bookmaker, top equity fund managers at a Dutch Investment firm and representatives from a Maltese company which represents a number of gaming companies.
According to prosecutors, the Austrian bookmakers ran 2,500 unauthorised betting shops up until 2015 and continued to operate around 1,000 even after an amnesty programme offered black market venues the chance to obtain licences without having to pay back taxes.
The operator is accused of running what investigators called a "double track" system, meaning it took both legal and illegal bets, while also being in violation of tax and anti-money laundering laws.
Unauthorised bets were taken through “dot.com" websites Palace777, BetFaktor, GoldenGool, PlanetWin365, PremierWin365 and JokerBet, said investigators.
The bookmaker had also allegedly entered into agreements with the Martiradonna crime family, members of which are former shareholders of Maltese companies CenturionBet and 3soft Gaming, as well as the bookmaker Bet1128, said prosecutors.
By virtue of this agreement, the operator was "connected with members of local mafia-type criminal gangs on the national territory, for the marketing of the '.com' sites and the development of the illegal networks, in parallel with the business carried out through authorised outlets", said the prosecutor's report.
The Italian investigation is likely to create significant tax issues for the companies, following additional allegations by the Guardia di Finanza that the business failed to declare €3.8 billion in gambling income.
€53 million in corporate taxes and €71 million in betting duty missed
The operators are accused of missing around €53 million in corporate taxes and €71 million in betting duty.
The anti-mafia investigators accuse the companies of submitting false tax returns, mainly through the incorrect allocation of taxable income between the operator’s Maltese headquarters and its Italian base.
The anti-mafia investigation also focused on the activity of one Maltese registered company whose shareholders and managers are accused of engaging in a "mafia-type" criminal conspiracy, illegal betting, submitting false corporate and tax returns, fraud, money laundering and unfair competition.
Investigators say the company has a connection with Reggio Calabria’s Tegano gang, through two consultants.