MGA Increases Money Laundering CrackdownTia Winter | 22 February 2018
The Maltese online gaming regulator, MGA (Malta Gaming Authority) has launched a brand new anti-money laundering unit, according to a press release by the iGaming watchdog earlier this month. The new programme has come as part of the regulator’s persistent efforts to boost its public image and nip unlawful gambling activities in the bud.
It was last week when the MGA formally announced its new Anti-Money Laundering Supervisory Unit. The move has followed the territory’s recent adoption of the European Union’s own Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, which was first revealed in December last year.
The AML Supervisory Unit is reportedly in full operation, and will henceforth conduct both off-site and on-site inspections of the MGA’s licensees. Some of these inspections will also be carried out in conjunction with the Maltese Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU). The MGA has noted that its AML supervisory plan for this year includes numerous on-site visits to both its online and land-based gambling licensees.
MGA Licensees May Have Mafia Links
While the new unit has been in the pipelines for some time now, its launch has come just a day after the MGA began an in-depth probe into the operations of its Italian iGaming licensees. The investigation has come as a response to the arrest of Italy’s ‘Betting King’ this month, along with his MGA-licensed brand’s reported links to the Mafia.
Malta’s gambling industry brings in around 12% of the nation’s gross domestic earnings each year, explaining why the MGA is concerned about reports of its Italian license holders being linked to organised crime syndicates. Last month, the authority pushed back against allegations by the Italian Anti-Mafia Commission that it was not doing enough to help stop Mafia-linked illicit gambling activities.
Authority Launches Italian Probe
Last week, Executive Chairman of the MGA Joseph Cushieri noted that he wanted improved collaboration with Italy’s authorities, promising that his organisation had stepped up its efforts to conduct checks against Italian firms. Officials in Malta have claimed that these investigations are only the first step in a widespread crackdown on any illegal activities by Italian licensees.
Just days ago, Italian gaming news outlet Agimeg also issued a report stating that the MGA had issued letters to seven of its Italian license holders. According to the report, the MGA has demanded formal responses from these firms to twenty questions, including questions on the operators’ anti-money laundering protocols.