Two Italians based in Malta provided Sicilian criminal gangs with usernames and passwords to Maltese-registered gaming websites as part of a multi-million-euro illegal undertaking.
Angelo Repoli, 45, from SantAgata di Militello, and Sergio Moltisanti, 50, from Ragusa, were among several criminals arrested last week in Palermo. The two were placed under house arrest as part of the police operation, codenamed Operation Game Over II.
The operation was a continuation of a similar operation carried out three years ago by the same name, which uncovered how the Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra was using online gambling to launder money.
Companies in Bkara and Gzira
Repoli and Moltisanti have Maltese companies registered under their names, which they used between 2016 and 2018 to acquire online gaming licences in Malta. The betting companies have long been shut down and the Malta Gaming Authority had withdrawn the licence to Moltisantis LB Group back in 2018 when the first arrests were made.
However, the names of the Malta-based contacts only came out last week as Italian police and prosecutors arrested seven people, a couple with links to mafia organisation Cosa Nostra.
Repoli, who gives his residential address in Lugano Switzerland (although investigators say he lives permanently in Militello), is sole owner of Pinpoint Ltd, set up in December 2016 and registered at a Birkirkara office.
Moltisanti gives his residential address at a Sliema flat and is director of Quantum Leap Ltd, set up in May 2011 with an office in Gzira.
Quantums shareholding is held by financial services consultancy firm Finaserv Consultancy Ltd that provides fiduciary services.
Circumventing Italian law
The head of Palermos mobile police force that was involved in the investigation and arrests, Rodolfo Ruperti, told MaltaToday on Thursday the criminal gangs had acquired usernames and passwords from the Malta-based contacts to circumvent Italian gaming laws.
It is illegal in Italy to bet and play casino games on websites with .com and .net domains since gambling outlets registered with the Italian gaming authority have to have a .it domain.
The gangs operated several internet cafes and news agents across Sicily, particularly in Palermo, from where users were provided with illicit access to various gaming sites operated by Repoli and Moltisanti.
14 million per month
Investigators believe the whole operation generated some 14 million per month and was used to launder illicit funds. Some of the cash generated was reinvested in legitimate businesses and investigators also seized an agricultural undertaking funded by the illegal operation.
The criminal organisation used to pay a monthly fee to the providers in Malta ranging between 1.8% and 1.3% of the total sum played that month. Thousands of euros in cash were passed on to Repoli and Moltisanti.
Judicial documentation seen by MaltaToday shows how phone and conversation intercepts led investigators to establish how the network operated.
The ring leaders were Salvatore Cin, Rosario Calascibetta and Giacomo Dolce, who each set up a network of agents that provided access to gamblers.
Gamblers had no direct relationship with the website operators, an illegality in its own right, since they could only create personal accounts through the respective agents. Some of the betting sites listed in the official documents are Betqueen365.com, Italbet365.com, Betday24.net, Globalbet360.com and Colmabet.com.
Passwords were provided by the ring leaders to their agents. In one of the conversations recorded secretly by investigators, one of the agents was told that the password was Ita12345!.
Phone intercepts also show that the ring leaders were wary of gamblers who played large sums of money and emphasised with their respective agents the need to cap bets. Investigators believe this was done to limit the amount of cash that would have to be disbursed for winnings.
Ill turn his blood into water
Agents were expected to hand over 1,500 per month to their masters and several phone intercepts highlight problems with some of the agents, who fell back on payments.
Ill turn his blood into water, one of the ring leaders was heard saying of an agent who had racked up a debt of several thousand euros.
Last month, a Sicilian court imprisoned Benedetto Bacchi, known as the Gambling King, for 18 years after finding him guilty of running a network of 700 outlets where illicit gambling was taking place on gaming sites based in Malta.
Bacchi was accused of helping the Cosa Nostra launder its money through this illicit network. He had been arrested in 2018 during the first operation codenamed Game Over. Bacchi has always claimed he was a victim of Cosa Nostra.
Bacchis gaming licences in Malta were terminated three years ago when he was arrested.
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