The Malta Independent 21 November 2018, Wednesday

‘Ndrangheta links to companies: Malta Gaming Authority 'effective regulator' - Jose Herrera

Kevin Schembri Orland Saturday, 10 October 2015, 09:00 Last update: about 4 years ago

Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness Jose Herrera believes that the Gaming Authority, Malta’s regulator for the gambling sector, is effective.

This despite the allegations made this past summer linking certain companies to the ‘Ndrangheta.

“We have a very good regulator. We have invested more resources, have more inspectors and are placing more emphasis on due diligence. We are always upgrading. We will never eliminate problem. In every sector of society you find bad apples. There are bad apples in the Judiciary, in Parliament, the executive and priesthood”. Dr Herrera said that what one can do is minimise the risk of such incidents. “It doesn’t mean that just because you have a bad apple, then the whole industry is bad or that you should abrogate the industry”.

He mentioned that the Green party in Malta had suggested removing the fiduciary regime from the country. “Yet if you do this you would disrupt the financial services sector, and you wouldn’t do this just because of a few bad apples. What I will do is fine-tune it. You learn from past experiences and keep on fine-tuning, however there would never be a time where one can exclude these problems”.

When challenged with the statement that it was the Italian authorities, rather than the Maltese who uncovered the alleged situation, the parliamentary secretary said he has a great deal of respect for the Italian regulator and their way of doing things, “however they sometimes have double standards”.

“The authority suspended the companies once we knew of the allegations, however they didn’t make any suspensions. This is why we have a regulator, as soon as there is something bad, they suspend. As a result, they are threatening the gaming authority with court action, but it remains that their licenses were suspended”

He has a new proposal to put forward. “What we need to do is change the law, and give power to the authority, so that if it suspends it would not be able to do so indefinitely. Why? As there are clients’ funds, employees etc. If a person is arraigned in court then yes, suspend or remove the license, but if the investigation is ongoing, and the Italians are notorious for lengthy investigations, the authority should have the power to reissue the license in certain circumstances with the right to appoint their own administrator. The administrator would syndicate what is happening in that commercial entity”.

Dr Herrera said he does not believe in witch hunts. “It is very easy for the courts to issue a garnishee order or issue a suspension and keep everything frozen indefinitely. If a person is found guilty of foul play then yes, take away his license, but if a person is being investigated on mere suspicion at some point a decision needs to be taken. You cannot leave a company employing 300-400 people suspended indefinitely. We need to strengthen the powers of the regulator in this regard”.

Asked whether the authority had any idea whatsoever of the alleged links prior to the Italian investigation, he said – “no. unfortunately Italy has an ingrained organised crime network. Whether this is in the financial services sector, gaming or another industry, you will always be exposed to certain risks. However one cannot rule out the possibility of granting a license to Italian companies. The problem we had within the gaming sector we’ve had it over the years in financial services in general. Hysteria is wrong and to be honest all the political forces in Malta were very cautious in the way they addressed this problem”.

He said that around 21 companies have had their licence suspended this year.

 

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