Italian authorities conducted a sting on the ‘Ndrangheta syndicate Wednesday, accused of laundering drug money through their retail and online gambling businesses.
The ‘Ndrangheta, who is believed to be the most powerful crime syndicate in Italy, is considered to be the principal importer and wholesaler of Latin American cocaine in to Europe.
Authorities said they seized Euro 2 Billion’s worth of assets from 1500 betting shops, 82 online gambling sites, 60 companies and numerous properties.
Arrest warrants were issued for 28 people suspected of running the gambling network while 23 others were placed under house arrest.
Mario Gennaro (39), who reportedly heads up the gambling operation, along with five others, were served with a European Arrest Warrant in Malta today.
Gennaro and Italian nationals Margherita Giudetti (34), Francesco Ripepi (38), Alessandro Ciaffi (40), Rocco Ripepi (36) and Fortunato Stracuzzi (37) are awaiting extradition to Italy.
Court documents describe Gennaro as “‘Ndrangheta’s point-man in the betting industry who set up a host of companies in Malta”. Those companies were named as Uniq Group Limited (Betuniq) and Betsolution4U Limited.
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has suspended the licenses of these companies with immediate effect saying:
“The MGA is providing full support to the relevant authorities so that Malta’s reputation as a gaming jurisdiction of excellence is kept free from crime and money laundering.
“The MGA is also alerting counterpart regulators in other EU jurisdictions about this case.”
Licenses issued to the companies include:
Betsolutions4U Limited – Class 2 – LGA/CL2/807/2012
Uniq Group Limited – Class 1 on 4 – LGA/CL1/808/2012
Uniq Group Limited – Class 2 – LGA/CL2/696/2010
Other companies involved in the extensive operation were identified by Calabria police as Uniq Group, Uniq Shopping, Tebaral Holding, Teberal Trading, Betsolution4U ltd and Fast Run Limited.
Police said, the operation “recycled an enormous amount of ‘dirty’ money through the use of gaming accounts assigned to willing or unwitting people.
“They bypassed the laws governing this sector, accumulating significant profits that were then reinvested in the acquisition of new companies and licences to further expand their activities.”