Just days ago, Italian police confiscated in excess of €400 million worth of assets from a Malta-based igaming company that was brought into connection with the infamous Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
In direct response to the incident, Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), the island nation’s gaming regulator, issued a statement denying any relation to the company in question or Antonio Ricci, the individual who was arrested on money laundering charges back in 2019.
The MGA statement read: “The authority would like to clarify that the individual being named at the center of the operation, Antonio Ricci, has no connection with the MGA, and he does not, in any capacity, form part of the ownership structures of any gaming company that is licensed by the MGA.
“The authority continuously liaises with both local and foreign authorities and will continue to monitor any further developments.”
While the company in question was not named, the substantial value of the frozen assets demonstrates the size of the operation. It does seem, however, that the company was not licensed by the MGA and not in direct relation with the Authority in any capacity.
Operation Galaxy Unravels a Criminal Network
According to Next.io, law enforcement seized €400 million worth of assets from an unnamed igaming company in Malta as part of “Operation Galaxy.” The Operation itself is charged with uncovering and dismantling a network of mafia-run igaming operations in Malta and abroad.
While the exact details of this criminal enterprise are yet to be fully disclosed, it is clear that a complex criminal empire was set in place to take illicit bets and launder the money from these unlawfully gained profits through a number of shell companies.
The network included individuals and companies in Ndrangheta’s home of Reggio Calabria, the island nation of Malta, and also other European countries such as Spain, Austria, and Romania.
The international police investigation and operation led to arrests and seizures, which included the crime boss’s personal assets, assets of three igaming companies in Malta, and two Maltese trusts.
Operation Galaxy was first started in May 2023 and has been producing significant results in uncovering organized crime ties with the igaming industry and a number of companies registered in the names of crime bosses in order to acquire illegal gains or launder money from such operations.
Antonio Ricci Revealed as the Operation’s Mastermind
While the police initially did not want to disclose the details of Operation Galaxy, it is now clear that the individual brought into connection with the companies whose assets were frozen is Antonio Ricci, an individual in his 40s who has substantial ties to the Ndrangheta crime organization.
Back in 2019, Ricci was arrested by the Maltese law enforcement under charges of money laundering after living on the island for nearly a decade, posing as an electronic goods worker.
Ricci was eventually deported back to Italy, where he was restricted from leaving the town in which he resided. However, it appears that even from afar, Ricci was able to lead a criminal empire and acquire millions in illegal gains.
Now that Ricci’s companies have been shut down and their assets seized, the igaming world will be a little safer, as Operation Galaxy continues looking for ties between organized crime and online gambling which have been on the rise in recent years.