A man arrested for working with a Mafia organisation is believed to form part of a gaming crackdown that saw €1 billion in illegal proceeds seized last year.  

The suspect was arrested by the police on Sunday under a European Arrest Warrant after days of surveillance.

The police said in a statement the arrest had followed an operation named ‘Op Rich’, which was carried out between members of the Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Unit.

The Italian, who lives in Swieqi, was well-known in online betting circles in Malta and is expected to be arraigned in court today for the extradition procedure to be embarked upon.

He is wanted by the Italian authorities for association with the organisation, management and collection of illegal betting on behalf of a Mafia organisation.

Sources yesterday indicated that the man had featured in an investigation into online betting fraud which led to the arrest of 68 people last November. 

80 search operations reportedly carried out in various cities across Italy

The investigation, which saw the cooperation of Maltese authorities, was led by the prosecutors of Bari, Reggio Calabria and Catania, and coordinated by the Italian National Anti-Mafia and Counter-Terrorism Directorate.

The volume of sports bettings and other bets, discovered by the Italian Guardia di Finanza and the police, is worth over €4.5 billion, according to Italian media reports.

Around 80 search operations were reportedly being carried out in various cities across Italy in connection with the case.

Italian investigators said the criminal groups were using Mafia methods to infiltrate the online betting market to launder funds deriving from drug trafficking and other criminal activities.

Once laundered, the funds were then reinvested in estate assets and financial positions abroad, in the name of foundations and a complex web of shell companies.

Italian media reports say the Bari investigation focused on a Puglia crime syndicate headed by infamous Mafia boss Vito Martiradonna, 70.

Sources involved in the Maltese side of the investigation told the Times of Malta that the investigation was the biggest that the Malta Gaming Authority had ever been involved in.

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