A company that illegally processed millions of euros worth of payments for an online gambling operation will not face any criminal charges after reaching a €2.34 million settlement with the Malta Gaming Authority.
An industry source familiar with the settlement said the authorities had decided to close off the case with a fine, rather than pursuing the Malta-based company on money laundering charges.
The “suspicious” transactions, which passed through Satabank, were only flagged after the Malta Financial Services Authority placed EY in charge in October 2018 following concerns about the bank’s anti-money laundering controls.
When contacted, a Satabank representative declined to comment on individual customers.
Blackrock Media Ltd, which is owned by a Curucao-registered company called Blackrock Entertainment, does not have an MGA gaming licence.
The settlement raised questions as to why the authorities decided to settle with the company through the MGA, allowing those involved to walk away without any criminal action being brought against them.
In a statement earlier in January, the MGA said Blackrock Media had paid a €2.34 million fine for operating a gaming service through a Maltese legal entity without being in possession of the necessary authorisation.
“Joint investigations by the Malta Gaming Authority and executive police resulted in the determination that the company was processing payments to and from players as part of a gaming service which was not duly authorised,” the MGA had said.
Replying to questions by The Sunday Times of Malta about the basis for the settlement, a spokesman for the MGA said Article 25 of the Gaming Act empowered the authority to reach settlements with any person, whether licensed or otherwise, that the authority deemed to have breached the Gaming Act.
“Such settlements are in lieu of criminal proceedings and extinguish the criminal responsibility of the persons in breach for the acts in question. With regards to your other queries, in light of the settlement reached there is no other information that the authority deems fit to make public at this stage,” the spokesman said.
Data on the Malta Business Registry lists Anthony Debono as the ultimate beneficial owner of Blackrock Media.
Mr Debono, who became a director of the company in October 2018, did not respond to a request for comment.
Opposition leader Adrian Delia is a friend and business partner of Mr Debono in Carnaby, an unrelated wine importation company.
When contacted about his association with Mr Debono, Dr Delia said he had nothing to do with this case.
“Upon entering politics, I immediately resigned as a director of Carnaby, which is a totally different company with a totally different kind of business.
“In fact, Carnaby is not involved in gaming but is a tiny wine importing business. I also intended to sell all shares in the said company, amounting to 40 per cent, but this process stalled because of the separation procedures currently under way in court.
“Therefore, given the fact I have absolutely no involvement, I disassociate myself completely from any form or association with this company/ companies or their matters,” Dr Delia said.
Prior to Mr Debono’s involvement in Blackrock Media, ONE TV presenter and Family Ministry ‘coordinator’ Svetlana Muscat was the company’s sole director.
Ms Muscat did not reply to questions sent to her by The Sunday Times of Malta.
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