An Italian court of appeal has reversed a freezing order on a Malta-based gaming company with alleged links to the Mafia. 

Last week, the Court of Cassation in Rome upheld an appeal filed by Centurionbet, a company that had once held a Maltese gaming licence, to drop a precautionary seizure enforced by the Italian courts.

Earlier this month, the Times of Malta reported how Centurionbet obtained an operating licence in Malta while questions were being raised about its potential involvement in money laundering.

Malta Gaming Authority sources said the company had been investigated both by the authority’s in-house team and by the police, but no irregularities had been highlighted.

“It is often very difficult for us to uncover irregularities in these structures as they will be concealed behind layers and layers,” the sources said, adding that Italian anti-Mafia investigators would work “the other way around”, starting from the Mafia and its activities, and working their way down to the companies used by organised crime groups to launder money.

They will be concealed behind layers and layers

The Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI), probing the industry as part of the Daphne Project, found that one such complex structure had concealed the real ownership of the suspect company. The IRPI has reported how Bet1128, an online gaming brand that forms part of the Centurionbet portfolio, was believed by Italian prosecutors to have “deep ties” with organised crime in southern Italy.

Watch: Gaming industry safer than ever from money-laundering risk

The company relocated to Malta in 2009 when its British licence was revoked in the aftermath of an Italian anti-Mafia probe.

Intercepted phone conversations, recorded by the Italian fiscal police, indicated that Francesco Martiradonna, the son of a convicted Mafia boss, was pulling the strings of the company’s operations behind the scenes, according to the IRPI investigation.

Mr Martiradonna and over 100 other suspects are expected to face trial next month. He was arrested in May 2017 and the MGA suspended all the company’s gaming licences a month later.

The IRPI, however, has said that although Centurionbet’s licence was suspended, the company’s assets remained active.

The Italian courts are known to have made an urgent request to the Attorney General in Malta asking for Centurionbet’s assets to be frozen.

The aim of the request was to avoid such assets being transferred or hidden.