The Malta Independent 18 April 2019, Thursday

Malta’s Mafiosi: More ‘wanted’ Italians with companies in Malta

Sunday, 26 July 2015, 11:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

Kevin Schembri Orland and David Lindsay

Following this week’s sensational arrest of six Italians involved in Malta’s remote gaming sector and are wanted by the Italian authorities over their involvement with the Ndrangheta mafia, including money laundering, further investigations conducted by this newsroom have uncovered a number of other Italian nationals on Italian prosecutors’ list of wanted people who have companies and home addresses in Malta.

In total, the Italian authorities have issued 41 arrest warrants, among them the six European Arrest Warrants acted upon by the Maltese police this week.

This newspaper can confirm that three such people are Marco Zucco, Serena Parvenza and Maria Valentina Tavilla; it is unknown whether they are in Malta or if they have been found and arrested abroad.

In addition to these three, a number of other names on the Italian authorities’ wanted list have assets in Malta. Although some of the names are very specific, this newspaper has so far been unable to independently verify that they are one and the same.

The names are: Venerando Puntorieri (from Reggio Calabria), Pasquale Chirico Prattico (from Reggio Calabria), Alessandro Ciaffi (from Rome) and Domenico Lagrotteria (from Locri).

Questions sent to the Maltese police asking whether any local investigations have been undertaken remain unanswered. This week’s arrests were carried out on the strength of Italy’s European Arrest Warrant, and the Maltese police, as far as is known, have not independently begun investigating the allegations.

An intricate web of fiduciary companies

The alleged mafia-linked companies are surrounded by an intricate web of fiduciary companies established in Malta.

There were six companies registered in Malta that had their assets seized as part of a clamp-down by Italian police on illegal gaming activities and money laundering linked to the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta' mob.

The Malta-registered gaming companies that were on the Italian prosecutors’ list formed part of a wider network spanning Malta, Italy, Austria, Romania and Spain.

The companies listed are Uniq Group Ltd, Uniq Shopping Ltd, Tebaral Holding Ltd, Tebaral Trading Ltd, Betsolution4U Ltd and Fast Run Ltd. 

Marco Zucco, wanted by the Italian authorities, is involved in Maltese companies which were not actually on the Italians’ list. Those companies are: UniQlab ltd, Mega Invest Ltd and Global Promotions Holdings Ltd.

Serena Parvenza is a secretary in UniQlab and Mega Invest Ltd. She is also listed as director for Uniq Group and Uniq Shopping Ltd.

Maria Valentina Taville is listed as the secretary of Start Games Ltd, along with Mario Gennaro who is listed as director – allegedly the Calabrian Mafia’s point-man in the betting industry in Malta. Both women also have warrants for their arrest.

Start Games Ltd, in turn, is a shareholder in UniQ Group Ltd as well as UniQ Shopping Ltd; however, it is also a shareholder in EnetsportServices Ltd. Enetsport is also owned by Solution for Bet Limited, OGC Company Limited, and MGame Holding Limited. These three companies also held shares in BestSolution4U Ltd, which is also on the Italian authorities’ list.

The listed shareholder in these three companies is Maltese fiduciary firm GVM Holdings, of which David Gonzi holds a one-third partnership.

Speaking to this newspaper yesterday, David Gonzi confirmed that GVM has cut ties with all holding companies related to Betsolution4u and Uniq Group, meaning that the company’s ties with Enetsport have also been severed.

 

Snus-linked former MGA officer in the web

Interestingly, Iosif Galea, a former compliance officer with the then Lotteries and Gaming Authority and who has been linked to Silvio Zammit and the John Dalli snus scandal, is listed as the director of Betsolution4u.

He is also listed as a director in another company, Bet Passion Ltd, in which MGame Holding Ltd and OGC Company Ltd are listed as shareholders. As such, these holding companies’ ties to GVM were cut; however, other holding companies owned by GVM are also shareholders.

Police believe the firms were used to launder vast sums of illicit cash

The Italian police have seized assets worth €2 billion and issued 41 arrest warrants in raids on gambling companies in Italy and abroad run by the 'Ndrangheta mafia organisation.

The six Italians arrested this week, five men and one woman, voluntarily consented to their extradition to Italy after European Arrest Warrants were issued in June. 

The six are: Alessandro Ciaffi, 40, from Rome, Fortunato Stracuzzi, 37, from Messina, Mario Gennaro, 39, Francesco Ripepi 38 and his brother Rocco Ripepi, all from Reggio Calabria, and Margerita Simona Giudetti, 34 from Bari. In court this week, their legal representatives said that they had consented to their extradition in order to help Italian investigations and to prove they had nothing to do with the allegations levelled against them.

One of the companies being investigated, Fast Run Ltd, has Antonio Pantisano Trusciglio (from Crotone) listed as the director, and a European arrest warrant has also been issued in his respect.

 

Mario Gennaro

Mario Gennaro is allegedly the Calabrian Mafia’s point-man in the betting industry in Malta, where he has set up betting companies.

Gennaro has an address listed at Pender Gardens, St Julian’s, and was once the director and shareholder of a company called GM Holdings Ltd. The company was set up in 2011 and has been in dissolution since 2014.

He is also the director listed for Start Games Ltd, a company which is the shareholder in Uniq Group, Uniq Shopping, and Enetsport Service.

Marco Zucco and Serena Parvenza

Also wanted by the Italian authorities, is Marco Zucco from Regio Calabria, born in 1986. He has not been arrested in Malta. He does, however, have a number of holdings in Malta and is listed as having a residence in Gzira. Jessica Zucco, who is somehow related to Marco Zucco, is listed on Facebook as living in Malta; she is not wanted by the authorities.

Marco Zucco is also listed as having a stake in a number of Malta-registered companies. The first is La Baronessa Ltd, which is in dissolution, where Jessica Zucco is also listed as a shareholder. This company shares an address with GM Holdings (a company run by Gennaro and currently in dissolution) and Uniq Group.

However, he is also a director in three active companies – UniQlab ltd, Mega Invest Ltd and Global Promotions Holdings Ltd. Mega Invest Ltd also has the same address as Uniq Group Ltd and GM Holdings.

Global Promotions Holding is listed as one of the shareholders of Mega Invest Ltd as well as of UniQlabLtd. The shareholders of Global Promotions are GVM Holdings (Dr Gonzi’s firm, and EIG Holdings Group Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Serena Parvenza, also wanted by the Italian authorities, is the company secretary of UniQlab and Mega Invest Ltd. She was also a shareholder and company secretary of La Baronessa Ltd and a director of Uniq Group and Uniq Shopping Ltd.

Maria Valentina Tavilla

Maria Valentina Tavilla is also on the Italians’ wanted list. She is listed on the MFSA website as the company secretary of Start Games Ltd, a company which is the nominal shareholder in Uniq Group, Uniq Shopping, and Enetsport Service.

 

David Gonzi

The fiduciary company at the top of the six companies in question is GVM Ltd, with one of the three directors and shareholders being David Gonzi, son of former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, the others being Keith Massa and Angelo Vella.

Speaking with this newspaper, David Gonzi clarified that the company offering the fiduciary services to the Betuniq companies was GVM and not his actual law firm – Gonzi & Associates Advocates. He explained that he has a one-third shareholding in GVM Ltd, and has been a co-director since 2 December 2014. Dr Gonzi said, “We [he and the other two shareholders] use the service for the law firm’s clients, as well as the clients of the other two shareholders”.

He explained, “We have a licence to provide these services as a fiduciary in terms of the Trusts and Trustees Act and we are fully transparent with the authorities. This means that, according to law, the name of the ultimate beneficial owner is not available to the public but it is available to all competent authorities – including the tax authorities and the Malta Gaming Authority – who are aware of who the said owner is. In addition, achieving an MGA licence means that the MGA actually would have carried out a very rigorous due diligence process in relation to every ultimate owner and the licence is only awarded once the due diligence is completed successfully.”

In addition, he said that banks also only recognise the owner of a company and not a fiduciary, so the banks would also know who the ultimate shareholder is.”

Dr Gonzi explained what due diligence GVM Ltd took in this case. “Typically before accepting a client we would ask for a copy of the ultimate shareholder’s passport, which needs to be certified, their police conduct, and proof of address. We would also ask them to send information of proposed activities and their plans for the company and evidence regarding the source of their funding. We would then conduct a risk assessment. This is done before the MGA’s due diligence process referred to above.”  

Dr Gonzi said that Mario Gennaro is not a GVM client, and again stated that the identity of the ultimate shareholder is known to the competent authorities.

Dr Gonzi said he has not yet been contacted by the Italian or Maltese authorities but he has been in touch with the Malta Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and that he will make himself and GVM fully available for any investigations both locally and in Italy.

MGA suspended licences

The Malta Gaming Authority said in a statement that in the wake of the arrests and seizures, it had suspended with immediate effect the licences of Uniq Group Limited (Betuniq) and Betsolution4U Limited. These operators have been functioning in Malta since 2011. This measure followed investigations and arrests carried out by the Italian law enforcement authorities in collaboration with the Malta police.

“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,” the statement read.

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