A Malta-based online gambling firm that employs more than 80 employees is being subjected to rigorous scrutiny for its operations in Belgium following an investigation connected to the Panama Papers.
The Belgian Gaming Commission a few days ago announced it had started a sanction procedure against Betway because of its “cumulative licence and the lack of transparency of its ownership”.
A spokeswoman for the Belgian regulator, Marjolein De Pape, said the commission’s findings were now sent to the public prosecutor, the anti-money laundering unit and the Special Tax Inspectorate for further information and possible action.
A probe on Betway was launched in 2017 after the company’s mentioning in the Panama Papers, which detailed an opaque corporate structure of companies looking to minimise their tax obligations in various countries.
Licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority, Betway, registered in Malta and operating from offices in Gżira, is owned by Betway Group Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands and Cybergaming Consultants, a Ta’ Xbiex company, which only holds a nominal share.
The identity of the real shareholders of the company, registered in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands, is not known. When contacted, a spokesman for Betway confirmed that the company was collaborating with the Belgian authorities while insisting that, so far, no proper sanctioning initiative has been started but only a “review”.
No sanctions has been decided on
“All information requested by the Gaming Commission in Belgium has been provided to them, and they have informed us that a review of that information is now underway by the board. At this stage no sanction has been decided on,” the spokesman said.
Asked who owns Betway, the spokesman did not reveal names.
“Betway is owned and funded by a group of private shareholders who have been highly successful in both the gaming and technology sectors,” he told Times of Malta.
“As with any private company, the shareholders very reasonably choose not to publicise their investment in Betway or other companies, but provide all the information necessary to the relevant official bodies as required.”
The Maltese regulatory authorities said they are monitoring the situation. Acknowledging this was a matter for the Belgian authorities, an MGA spokesman said that, “as a matter of procedure, the MGA follows up on all adverse media remarks with the operator, or as necessary, with the concerned regulator”.
The reference to Betway in the Panama Papers was immediately picked by the Belgian press, particularly as the company sponsors the country’s most known football club – RSC Anderlecht.
Among the Panama Papers documents, some appear to show that Betway received a €28 million investment in December 2014 from the unknown shareholders in the British Virgin Islands.
According to the Belgian gambling regulator, it had attempted to identify the sources of these payments, particularly in reference to the funding of sponsorship deals with Anderlecht football club, but was unable to do so.
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